Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract
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James McDermott*1,2, Nathan Aminpour2, Vy Phan2, Haijun Wang2, Michelle Valentin2, Ankit Mishra2, Derek DeLia3, Marcus Noel2, Waddah Al-Refaie2
1University of California Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA; 2MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, ; 3Rutgers University School of Planning and Public Policy, New Brunswick, NJ

Background: To address the persistent ethnoracial and socioeconomic disparities in access to quality surgical cancer care, it is imperative to rigorously understand the role of clinician-level factors including clinician-to-clinician connectedness. For patients with gastric cancer, the pathway from primary care (PC) clinicians to gastroenterologists (GI) to cancer specialists (medical oncologists or surgeons) is referral-dependent and requires significant care coordination. However, the impact of clinician-to-clinician connectedness on access to quality gastric cancer surgical care, such as at National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Centers (NCI-CC), remains underexplored. This study evaluates how the connectedness between PC clinician or GI with cancer specialists at NCI-CC can influence receipt of gastrectomy for gastric cancer at NCI-CC.

Methods: Maryland's All-Payer Claims Database was used to evaluate 667 patients who underwent gastrectomy for cancer from 2013-2018. Clinician-to-clinician connectedness was measured via referral linkages between clinicians. Two separate referral linkages, defined as ≥9 shared patients between two clinicians, were examined from: 1) PC clinicians to GI at NCI-CC and 2) GI to cancer specialists at NCI-CC. Multiple logistic regression models were used to determine associations between referral linkages and adjusted odds of undergoing gastrectomy at NCI-CC.

Results: Only 15% of gastric cancer surgeries were performed at NCI-CC. Patients treated by GI with stronger referral links to cancer specialists at NCI-CC were more likely to be <65 years of age, male, white, and privately insured (for all, p< 0.05). Every additional referral link between PC clinician and GI at NCI-CC and between GI and cancer specialists at NCI-CC increased the odds of receiving gastric cancer surgery at NCI-CC by 71% and 26%, respectively (Table). Black patients had half the odds as white patients in receiving gastrectomy at NCI-CC (OR: 0.53, CI:[0.30, 0.93]). However, adjusting for covariates including clinician-to-clinician connectedness weakened the observed negative effects of black race on receipt of gastrectomy at NCI-CC (OR: 0.63, CI:[0.10, 3.83]).

Conclusion: Patients of clinicians with low clinician-to-clinician connectedness and black patients are less likely to receive gastrectomy at NCI-CC. Clinician connectedness appears to be an actionable area of intervention to overcome existing disparities in access to quality surgical cancer care. These results are relevant to policy makers, healthcare systems, clinicians, and patient advocates seeking to achieve equitable access to quality cancer care.

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