What are Oncology Clinical Pathways? -OHC
Clinical pathways. What are they exactly? The words conjure the image of a medical doctor or some lab coat-wearing technician taking you on a hike.
But that’s not the kind of path we’re talking about. In our world, and yours if you’re a cancer patient, a clinical pathway — also known as a care pathway, critical pathway, and care map — is the best path to follow in order to successfully manage and treat a particular cancer condition. The path chosen tells us how to forge ahead, and it is never random; it is based on a consensus of evidence in the medical community.
When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, a series of tests are done to determine which pathway is best for your case. Once the data is collected and analyzed, the correct clinical pathway for your case is chosen. So if you have lung cancer, you will be traveling a path different from the one that a patient with breast cancer will take. But it will be the best path that medical science knows for you to be on.
The clinical pathways themselves are written guidelines that come from a number of sources, including oncologists at OHC and the American Society of Oncologists. In the future, OHC hopes to partner with The University of Pittsburgh, known for producing cutting-edge guidelines.
Clinical pathways have not only had proven success in treating cancer, but they are also cost friendly. Pathways provide consistency in treatment across OHC locations, thus allowing for more efficiency and consistent costs.
While clinical pathways may seem unyielding and rigid, they actually allow physicians to make adjustments quite easily. A cookie-cutter approach is not always ideal for cancer patients, as each case is special. Your physician may choose to move away from the path depending on your unique needs. Each pathway is as different as the patient it is prescribed for.
In the beginning, a pathway provides a framework for treatment — a plan that has a high success rate and the most promising outlook for the patient. As a patient continues on his or her journey, unforeseen challenges often arise, making flexibility in the pathway a part of the process.
Changes in a pathway can be as minor as adjusting your dosage or as important as switching to a new FDA-approved cancer drug
In some cases, a patient’s health might not meet the ordinary standards required for continuation on a clinical patheway. This could necessitate an alternative method of treatment such as participation in one of our clinical research trials.
Clinical pathways are valuable tools for oncologists, offering the most promising framework for success at the beginning of your treatment. Yet they allow the flexibility that your oncologist needs to fine-tune your treatment.
By adopting strategic clinical pathways five years ago, OHC has proven that it will provide top-notch, leading-edge, and cost-effective treatment for every patient, no matter how unique their cancer situation may be.
Dr. Lawrence Brennan is an OHC medical oncologist who specializes in breast cancer, lymphomas, and genitourinary malignancies. A leading proponent of clinical pathways, he uses them to guide the course of treatment for his cancer patients.