Background: Pathways are frequently used to improve care for cancer patients. However, there is little evidence about the effects of pathways used in oncological care. Therefore, we performed a systematic review and meta-analysis aiming to identify and synthesize existing literature on the effects of pathways in oncological care.
Methods: All patients diagnosed with cancer in primary and secondary/tertiary care whose treatment can be characterized as the strategy “care pathways” are included in this review. A systematic search in seven databases was conducted to gather evidence. Studies were screened by two independent reviewers. Study outcomes regarding patients, professionals, and system level were extracted from each study.
Results: Out of 13,847 search results, we selected 158 articles eligible for full text assessment. One hundred fifty studies were excluded and the remaining eight studies represented 4786 patients. Most studies were conducted in secondary/tertiary care. Length of stay (LOS) was the most common used indicator, and was reported in five studies. Meta-analysis based on subgroups showed an overall shorter LOS regarding gastric cancer (weighted mean difference (WMD)): − 2.75, CI: − 4.67 to − 0.83) and gynecological cancer (WMD: − 1.58, CI: − 2.10 to − 1.05). Costs were reported in six studies and most studies reported lower costs for pathway groups.
Conclusions: Despite the differences between the included studies, we were able to present an evidence base for cancer care pathways performed in secondary/tertiary care regarding the positive effects of LOS in favor of cancer care pathways. Systematic review registration: PROSPERO CRD42017057592.
- Care maps
- Care pathways
- Clinical pathways
- Integrated care pathways
- Systematic review