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Experiencing cancer treatment decision-making in managed care


J. Wenzel: e-mail: or


Title. Experiencing cancer treatment decision-making in managed care.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to explore women’s perceptions of and experiences with breast cancer treatment decision-making in managed care organizations (MCOs).

Background.  Managed care organizations are the predominant form of employer-sponsored healthcare insurance in the United States of America. These healthcare financing entities minimize cost by streamlining healthcare delivery and may impose choice restrictions. The extent of these restrictions has not previously been studied from an in-depth patient perspective.

Method.  A qualitative descriptive approach was adopted using interviews with a purposive sample of 14 managed care enrollees diagnosed with breast cancer at all stages. The data were collected between 2003 and 2005. Data analysis involved a reflexive process of transcript reading, categorization, data reduction and interpretation.

Findings.  The findings are presented as a single theme: ‘decisional conflict in managed care’, with two distinct categories: decisions regarding (1) the MCOs and (2) treatment. MCO selection was perceived to be limited by employer constraints, cost issues or healthcare plan providers. For study participants, selecting a MCO was less difficult than issues surrounding treatment decision-making. Women reported that their most important treatment-related decisions surrounded diagnosis and involved selecting a treatment facility and provider. Once a satisfactory facility and provider were selected, these women preferred to defer treatment decisions to their healthcare providers.

Conclusion.  Decision interventions should be focused on assisting women with provider and treatment facility selection early in diagnosis. Our findings might also serve as a basis for policy/practice changes to address healthcare financing limitations and to expand cancer treatment-related choices while providing desired treatment decision-making support.

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