The following article features coverage from the NCCN 2022 Annual Conference. Click here to read more of Cancer Therapy Advisor’s conference coverage.

By providing certain services after regular hours, cancer centers can help their patients avoid visits to the emergency department (ED), according to a study presented in a poster at the NCCN 2022 Annual Conference.

Researchers found that a multipronged approach to after-hours care helped to prevent unplanned ED visits or other acute care utilization by patients with cancer, even in times of high COVID-19 prevalence.

“Identifying alternative strategies to manage symptoms and address cancer patient concerns was particularly critical during COVID-19, a time when emergency department utilization and other traditional acute care services experienced high volumes,” said study author Raquel Reinbolt, MD, of The Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus.

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The approach Dr Reinbolt and colleagues evaluated included an after-hours nurse triage phone program and extended hours for infusion services, including drug, fluid, and blood product administration. The approach also included establishing a cancer-specific urgent care center that provides care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The researchers examined whether setting up these programs at The Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center could lower ED utilization between July 2020 and June 2021.

During this time period, there were 12,111 patient calls to the after-hours nurse triage line. For most of the calls (58.9%), care escalation was required, but only advice was needed for 25.8% of calls, and 15.3% of calls were related to appointment requests or cancellations.

Of the callers who required care escalation, 49.9% were forwarded to an on-call provider, 28.4% were referred to the ED, 24% were referred to the all-hours urgent care center or for in-office evaluation, and 2.2% were advised to call 911.

The researchers also recorded 83,586 infusion encounters during the study period. In a small percentage of cases (0.39%), patients were sent to the ED for evaluation or admitted from the infusion center.

There were 4080 patients seen at the urgent cancer care center during the study period. In this group, 26% of patients were admitted for inpatient care, and 2.7% were transferred to the ED within 24 hours of arrival at the center.

“Our observations support that a multimodality approach to provide non-urgent or urgent, but non-emergent, management of cancer patients may help to alleviate the strain on traditional acute care models and offer patients greater choice in how and where to receive care,” Dr Reinbolt said.                                                                    

Read more of Cancer Therapy Advisor’s coverage of NCCN 2022 by visiting the conference page.


Reinbolt RE, Chase W, Garnett D, et al. Strategies to prevent unplanned emergency department (ED) utilization in the COVID-19 era. Presented at NCCN 2022 Annual Conference; March 31 – April 2, 2022. Abstract BPI22-023.