The Out-of-Pocket Cost Burden of Cancer Care—A Systematic Literature Review

Background: Out-of-pocket costs pose a substantial economic burden to cancer patients and their families. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the literature on out-of-pocket costs of cancer care. Methods: A systematic literature review was conducted to identify studies that estimated the out-of-pocket cost burden faced by cancer patients and their caregivers. The average monthly out-of-pocket costs per patient were reported/estimated and converted to 2018 USD. Costs were reported as medical and non-medical costs and were reported across countries or country income levels by cancer site, where possible, and category. The out-of-pocket burden was estimated as the average proportion of income spent as non-reimbursable costs. Results: Among all cancers, adult patients and caregivers in the U.S. spent between USD 180 and USD 2600 per month, compared to USD 15–400 in Canada, USD 4–609 in Western Europe, and USD 58–438 in Australia. Patients with breast or colorectal cancer spent around USD 200 per month, while pediatric cancer patients spent USD 800. Patients spent USD 288 per month on cancer medications in the U.S. and USD 40 in other high-income countries (HICs). The average costs for medical consultations and in-hospital care were estimated between USD 40–71 in HICs. Cancer patients and caregivers spent 42% and 16% of their annual income on out-of-pocket expenses in low- and middle-income countries and HICs, respectively. Conclusions: We found evidence that cancer is associated with high out-of-pocket costs. Healthcare systems have an opportunity to improve the coverage of medical and non-medical costs for cancer patients to help alleviate this burden and ensure equitable access to car

The Withdrawal of the United States From the World Health Organization and Its Impact on Global Neurosurgery

To the Editor:

Right now, in any low to middle income country (LMIC), a child has developed postinfectious life-threatening hydrocephalus or a mother has suffered a brain bleed after a motor vehicle collision. Their lives could be saved by neurosurgical procedures such as shunting, third ventriculostomies, or burr holes. In the poor countries of the world, these conditions are incredibly common and result in significant morbidity and mortality while taking a tremendous toll on national economies. The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery clearly demonstrated the utility in ensuring access to life-saving surgical interventions such as these.1 However, the efforts to help vulnerable people lead full and productive lives are now at profound risk due to the unfortunate decision by the United States to withdraw funding from the World Health Organization (WHO).

On July 7, 2020, the United States announced its withdrawal of large financial support to WHO due to concerns surrounding the agency’s coronavirus response. Global efforts in infectious disease control, nutrition, and education will certainly be impacted by this decision, but so will global neurosurgery. Defunding WHO could have a profound impact on the gains made in capacity-building efforts and improving access to neurosurgical care.

Global neurosurgery is the public health and clinical care of neurosurgical patients with the primary purpose of ensuring timely, safe, and affordable neurosurgical care to all who need it.2 The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery incorporates all surgical disciplines, including global neurosurgery. The release of the Commission sounded the alarm on the investment of interdependent components of a surgical system such as anesthesia staff, nurses, operating rooms, critical care services, and biomedical engineers.3 With better capacity comes better neurosurgery and consequently improved treatment of the millions of patients every year with life-altering neurosurgical disease.

So where does WHO fit in? The United Nations (UN) has outlined its Sustainable Developmental Goals, which are to be reached by 2030. Global neurosurgery is related to targets #3 and #17—the promotion of healthy lives and global partnerships, respectively.4 WHO is the coordinating authority regarding health within the UN.

WHO is mandated to implement the health priorities set by its member states (MSs). In 2015, the members of WHO unanimously passed a resolution calling for “Strengthening Emergency and Essential Surgical Care and Anaesthesia as a Component of Universal Health Coverage.” The United States was a cosponsor of this historic resolution. Today, with the help of WHO and its key partners, more than 40 LMICs are currently in various stages of implementing the mandates of this resolution. Subspecialists such as neurosurgeons are transforming the profession by integrating the principle of health equity with WHO’s support. For example, WHO has partnered with the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS), the largest professional society within neurosurgery, to better understand the global neurosurgical disease burden and workforce deficits. This partnership also permits better access to local stakeholders to continue important advocacy efforts. Individual LMICs, under the WFNS-WHO partnership, can effectively push the agenda of improved neurosurgical care that is nationally or regionally specific.

At the World Health Assembly meeting in 2018, it was clear that WHO was increasing collaboration and communication between neurosurgical systems around the world.5 As Rosseau describes, neurosurgeons convened with health ministries and other key players to commit to “…sharing training, equipment, and other resources with the rest of the global surgery community.” Neurosurgeons seated at the table with WHO was a significant step in the right direction.

Finally, it is well known that WHO is one of the most significant champions of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Neurosurgical care is part of UHC and thus needs to be protected at all costs. In a country like Uganda, where the average person makes $2280 USD/yr and may spend up to $1220 USD for a neurosurgical procedure, the economic burden on patients can be devastating.6 WHO encourages governments to strategically partner with the public and private sectors to ensure that all health needs, including neurosurgical ones, are economically met with the best quality of medicine available.

The global neurosurgery movement, as part of the broader global surgery movement, would not have been possible without WHO. The key stakeholders respect and depend on WHO to set global priorities and support the MS implementation of their mandates. Yes, WHO can improve. But the United States will be far more effective in driving the improvement as an MS. The consequences of withdrawal of funding from WHO are devastating and will adversely affect millions of people around the world and, in particular, neurosurgical patients.

Rising Global Opportunities Among Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Programs

We surveyed Orthopaedic Surgery Residency (OSR) programs to determine international opportunities by the academic institutional region within the United States, location of the international experience, duration, residency program year (PGY), funding source, and resident participation to date.

We emailed a survey to all OSR programs in the United States to inquire about global opportunities in their residency programs. Further contact was made through an additional e-mail and up to three telephone calls. Data were analyzed using descriptive and chi-square statistics. This study was institutional review board exempt.

This research study was conducted at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, a tertiary care facility in conjunction with the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine.

The participants of this research study included program directors and coordinators of all OSR programs (185) across the United States.

A total of 102 OSR programs completed the survey (55% response rate). Notably, 50% of the responding programs offered a global health opportunity to their residents. Of the institutions that responded, those in the Midwest or South were more likely to offer the opportunity than institutions found in other US regions, although regional differences were not significant. Global experiences were most commonly: in Central or South America (41%); 1 to 2 weeks in duration (54%); and during PGY4 or PGY5 (71%). Furthermore, half of the programs provided full funding for the residents to participate in the global experience. In 33% of the programs, 10 or more residents had participated to date.

Interest in global health among medical students is increasing. OSR programs have followed this trend, increasing their global health opportunities by 92% since 2015. Communicating the availability of and support for international opportunities to future residents may help interested students make informed decisions when applying to residency programs.

Improving Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Survival Disparities in the United States–Mexico Border Region: A Cross-Border Initiative Between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico

Treatment of children with CNS tumors (CNSTs) demands a complex, interdisciplinary approach that is rarely available in low- and middle-income countries. We established the Cross-Border Neuro-Oncology Program (CBNP) between Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego (RCHSD), and Hospital General, Tijuana (HGT), Mexico, to provide access to neuro-oncology care, including neurosurgic services, for children with CNSTs diagnosed at HGT. Our purpose was to assess the feasibility of the CBNP across the United States-Mexico border and improve survival for children with CNSTs at HGT by implementing the CBNP.

We prospectively assessed clinicopathologic profiles, the extent of resection, progression-free survival, and overall survival (OS) in children with CNSTs at HGT from 2010 to 2017.

Sixty patients with CNSTs participated in the CBNP during the study period. The most common diagnoses were low-grade glioma (24.5%) and medulloblastoma (22.4%). Of patients who were eligible for surgery, 49 underwent resection at RCHSD and returned to HGT for collaborative management. Gross total resection was achieved in 78% of cases at RCHSD compared with 0% at HGT (P < .001) and was a predictor of 5-year OS (hazard ratio, 0.250; 95% CI, 0.067 to 0.934; P = .024). Five-year OS improved from 0% before 2010 to 52% in 2017. CONCLUSION The CBNP facilitated access to complex neuro-oncology care for underserved children in Mexico through binational exchanges of resources and expertise. Survival for patients in the CBNP dramatically improved. Gross total resection at RCHSD was associated with higher OS, highlighting the critical role of experienced neurosurgeons in the treatment of CNSTs. The CBNP model offers an attractive alternative for children with CNSTs in low- and middle-income countries who require complex neuro-oncology care, particularly those in close proximity to institutions in high-income countries with extensive neuro-oncology expertise.

Global Surgery: The Perspective of Public Health Students

Current research has emphasized the importance of increased involvement of medical professionals and global health specialists for the success of global surgery efforts. This quantitative descriptive study aimed to examine public health students’ perceptions of global surgery. A 21- question mixed method online survey was distributed over eight weeks via student email to all students enrolled in the Masters of Public Health Program at A.T. Still University (ATSU) College of Graduate Health Studies. Of 212 students, 35 (16.5%) respondents completed the survey with 30 students reporting interest in global health in their future public health careers. Two-thirds of students erroneously identified infectious diseases as the leading cause of death worldwide, not traumatic injury. Participants identified infectious disease and OB/GYN as the two medical fields to contribute significantly to global health. Surgical care was felt to be the least economically cost-effective medical field for low and middle-income countries (LMICs). As the first project to report perspectives of public health students regarding global surgery, this study highlighted several significant misconceptions concerning global surgery. Like the results from similar studies in medical students, it is alarming that there is such a paucity of community health knowledge surrounding surgery and its effects on global surgical needs. Further research should focus on the effect on student perceptions after curriculum modification include education regarding the burden of surgical disease and role of global surgery.

Considerations for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons in COVID-19 Era: Can We Sustain the Solutions to Keep Our Patients and Healthcare Personnel Safe?

Several uncertainties exist regarding how we will conduct our clinical, didactic, business, and social activities as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic abates and social distancing guidelines are relaxed. We anticipate changes in how we interact with our patients and other providers, how patient workflow is designed, the methods used to conduct our teaching sessions, and how we perform procedures in different clinical settings. The objective of the present report was to review some of the changes to consider in the clinical and academic oral and maxillofacial surgery workflow to allow for a smoother and more efficient transition, with less risk to our patients and healthcare personnel. New infection control policies should be strictly enforced and monitored in all clinical and nonclinical settings, with an overall goal of decreasing the risk of exposure and transmission. Screening for COVID-19 symptoms, testing when indicated, and establishing the epidemiologic linkage will be crucial to containing and preventing new COVID-19 cases until a vaccine or an alternate solution is available. Additionally, the shortage of essential supplies such as drugs and personal protective equipment, the design and ventilation of workspaces and waiting areas, the increase in overhead costs, and the possible absence of staff, if quarantine is necessary, must be considered. This shift in our workflow and patient care paths will likely continue in the short term at least through 2021 or the next 12 to 24 months. Thus, we must prioritize surgery, balancing patient preferences and healthcare personnel risks. We have an opportunity now to make changes and embrace telemedicine and other collaborative virtual platforms for teaching and clinical care. It is crucial that we maintain COVID-19 awareness, proper surveillance in our microenvironments, good clinical judgment, and ethical values to continue to deliver high-quality, economical, and accessible patient care.

Academic Advancement in Global Surgery Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure Recommendations From the American Surgical Association Working Group on Global Surgery

There is growing interest in global surgery among US academic surgical departments. As academic global surgery is a relatively new field, departments may have minimal experience in evaluation of faculty contributions and how they integrate into the existing academic paradigm for promotion and tenure. The American Surgical Association Working Group on Global Surgery has developed recommendations for promotion and tenure in global surgery, highlighting criteria that: (1) would be similar to usual promotion and tenure criteria (eg, publications); (2) would likely be undervalued in current criteria (eg, training, administrative roles, or other activities that are conducted at low- and middle-income partner institutions and promote the partnerships upon which other global surgery activities depend); and (3) should not be considered (eg, mission trips or other clinical work, if not otherwise linked to funding, training, research, or building partnerships).

A Review of State Guidelines for Elective Orthopaedic Procedures During the COVID-19 Outbreak

The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in widespread cancellation of elective orthopaedic procedures. The guidance coming from multiple sources frequently has been difficult to assimilate as well as dynamic, with constantly changing standards. We seek to communicate the current guidelines published by each state, to discuss the impact of these guidelines on orthopaedic surgery, and to provide the general framework used to determine which procedures have been postponed at our institution.

An internet search was used to identify published state guidelines regarding the cancellation of elective procedures, with a publication cutoff of March 24, 2020, 5:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Data collected included the number of states providing guidance to cancel elective procedures and which states provided specific guidance in determining which procedures should continue being performed as well as to orthopaedic-specific guidance.

Thirty states published guidance regarding the discontinuation of elective procedures, and 16 states provided a definition of “elective” procedures or specific guidance for determining which procedures should continue to be performed. Only 5 states provided guidelines specifically mentioning orthopaedic surgery; of those, 4 states explicitly allowed for trauma-related procedures and 4 states provided guidance against performing arthroplasty. Ten states provided guidelines allowing for the continuation of oncological procedures.

Few states have published guidelines specific to orthopaedic surgery during the COVID-19 outbreak, leaving hospital systems and surgeons with the responsibility of balancing the benefits of surgery with the risks to public health.

Management and outcomes following emergency surgery for traumatic brain injury – A multi-centre, international, prospective cohort study (the Global Neurotrauma Outcomes Study).

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) accounts for a significant amount of death and disability worldwide and the majority of this burden affects individuals in low-and-middle income countries. Despite this, considerable geographical differences have been reported in the care of TBI patients. On this background, we aim to provide a comprehensive international picture of the epidemiological characteristics, management and outcomes of patients undergoing emergency surgery for traumatic brain injury (TBI) worldwide. The Global Neurotrauma Outcomes Study (GNOS) is a multi-centre, international, prospective observational cohort study. Any unit performing emergency surgery for TBI worldwide will be eligible to participate. All TBI patients who receive emergency surgery in any given consecutive 30-day period beginning between 1st of November 2018 and 31st of December 2019 in a given participating unit will be included. Data will be collected via a secure online platform in anonymised form. The primary outcome measures for the study will be 14-day mortality (or survival to hospital discharge, whichever comes first). Final day of data collection for the primary outcome measure is February 13th. Secondary outcome measures include return to theatre and surgical site infection. This project will not affect clinical practice and has been classified as clinical audit following research ethics review. Access to source data will be made available to collaborators through national or international anonymised datasets on request and after review of the scientific validity of the proposed analysis by the central study team.

The fluctuating incidence, improved survival of patients with breast cancer, and disparities by age, race, and socioeconomic status by decade, 1981-2010.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women worldwide. However, the data on breast cancer incidence and survival over a long period, especially the dynamic changes in the role of race and socioeconomic status (SES), are scant.

To evaluate treatment outcomes of patients with breast cancer over the past 3 decades, the data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) registries were used to assess the survival of patients with breast cancer. Period analysis was used to analyze the incidence and survival trend; survival was evaluated by the relative survival rates (RSRs) and Kaplan-Meier analyses. The HRs for age, race, stage, and SES were assessed by Cox regression.

A total of 433,366 patients diagnosed with breast cancer between 1981 and 2010 were identified from the original nine SEER registries. The incidences of breast cancer in each decade were 107.1 per 100,000, 117.5 per 100,000, and 109.8 per 100,000. The 10-year RSRs improved each decade, from 70.8% to 81.5% to 85.6% (P<0.0001). The lower survival in black race and high-poverty group is confirmed by Kaplan-Meier analyses and RSRs. Furthermore, Cox regression analyses demonstrated that age, race, SES, and stage are independent risk factors for patients with breast cancer in each decade.

The current data demonstrated a fluctuating incidence trend with improving survival rates of patients with breast cancer over the past 3 decades. In addition, the survival disparity exists among different races, ages, SESs, and stages.