Establishing population-based surveillance of diagnostic timeliness using linked cancer registry and administrative data for patients with colorectal and lung cancer
Abstract Background Diagnostic timeliness in cancer patients is important for clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction but, to-date, continuous monitoring of diagnostic intervals in nationwide incident cohorts has been impossible in England. Methods We developed a new methodology for measuring the secondary care diagnostic interval (SCDI - first relevant secondary care contact to diagnosis) using linked cancer registration and healthcare utilisation data. Using this method, we subsequently examined diagnostic timeliness in colorectal and lung cancer patients (2014–15) by socio-demographic characteristics, diagnostic route and stage at diagnosis. Results The approach assigned SCDIs to 94.4% of all incident colorectal cancer cases [median length (90th centile) of 25 (104) days] and 95.3% of lung cancer cases [36 (144) days]. Advanced stage patients had shorter intervals (median, colorectal: stage 1 vs 4 - 34 vs 19 days; lung stage 1&2 vs 3B&4 - 70 vs 27 days). Routinely referred patients had the longest (colorectal: 61, lung: 69 days) and emergency presenters the shortest intervals (colorectal: 3, lung: 14 days). Comorbidities and additional diagnostic tests were also associated with longer intervals. Conclusion This new method can enable repeatable nationwide measurement of cancer diagnostic timeliness in England and identifies actionable variation to inform early diagnosis interventions and target future research.