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Thorax. 2009 Sep;64(9):749-56. doi: 10.1136/thx.2008.109330.

Timeliness of care in patients with lung cancer: a systematic review.

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VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA.



Timeliness is an important dimension of health care quality. It is unclear whether timeliness improves clinical outcomes in patients with lung cancer.


This study systematically reviewed studies that described timeliness of care, examined associations between timeliness and clinical outcomes or tested an intervention to improve timeliness of care in patients with lung cancer. English language studies published between 1 January 1995 and 1 June 2007 were included. Two reviewers independently abstracted data on study methods, population, sample size, relevant time intervals and outcomes.


49 studies were identified that reported at least one time interval in lung cancer care, 18 studies that examined the association between timeliness and clinical outcomes and 8 studies that described interventions aimed at improving timeliness. Most studies were performed in European Union member countries, including 24 studies performed in Great Britain and Ireland. Median times to diagnosis (range 8-60 days) and times to treatment (range 30-84 days) often exceeded published recommendations. Three studies found that timely care was associated with better survival, eight found no association and four reported better survival in patients who received less timely care. Interventions that improved timeliness included nurse-led care coordination, multidisciplinary meetings via teleconference and a standardised expedited "two-stop" diagnostic process.


Times to diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer are often longer than recommended. Factors associated with timeliness have been incompletely examined, and it remains unclear whether more timely care improves outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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