Delays in Melanoma Surgery Common Among Medicare Patients

Study finds 1 in 5 Medicare patients have surgery delayed.

Study finds 1 in 5 Medicare patients have surgery delayed.

Patients on Medicare diagnosed with melanoma may face a significant delay prior to receiving surgery, according to researchers from Yale University.

In a study published in JAMA Dermatology, researchers found that 1 in 5 patients on Medicare experience a delay in getting surgery to remove melanomas. A delay between the initial diagnosis and surgery can potentially cause psychological harm and diminished quality of health care, according to the study.

“Delay for melanoma surgery in this population is more common than we expected,” first author Jason Lott, MD, said in a press release.

The study included data from more than 32,000 Medicare patients diagnosed with melanoma. The results indicated 22% of patients had to wait more than 1.5 months for surgery, while 8% faced delays of more than 3 months.

Current recommendations for the treatment of melanoma call for a timeframe of less than 6 weeks between the initial diagnosis and surgery. The most common delays were reported among patients treated by providers who are not dermatologists, including primary care physicians and general surgeons.

The delays among these patients indicate a need for enhanced care coordination among providers who diagnose and treat melanoma patients, according to the study. Additionally, the researchers found a significant variation in the timing of surgery for Medicare patients following a melanoma diagnosis.

“We are working to identify reasons for delay in the time it takes for patients to get surgery,” Dr. Lott said. “That information will help ensure that we are delivering more prompt and patient-centered surgical care.”