Consuming Patients' Days: Time Spent on Ambulatory Appointments by People With Cancer

Sana Kagalwalla, Alexander K. Tsai, Manju George, Anna Waldock, Sydney Davis, Patricia Jewett, Rachel I. Vogel, Ishani Ganguli, Christopher Booth, Stacie B. Dusetzina, Gabrielle B. Rocque, Anne H. Blaes, Arjun Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: In qualitative work, patients report that seemingly short trips to clinic (eg, a supposed 10-minute blood draw) often turn into “all-day affairs.” We sought to quantify the time patients with cancer spend attending ambulatory appointments. Methods: We conducted a retrospective study of patients scheduled for oncology-related ambulatory care (eg, labs, imaging, procedures, infusions, and clinician visits) at an academic cancer center over 1 week. The primary exposure was the ambulatory service type(s) (eg, clinician visit only, labs and infusion, etc.). We used Real-Time Location System badge data to calculate clinic times and estimated round-trip travel times and parking times. We calculated and summarized clinic and total (clinic + travel + parking) times for ambulatory service types. Results: We included 435 patients. Across all service day type(s), the median (IQR) clinic time was 119 (78-202) minutes. The estimated median (IQR) round-trip driving distance and travel time was 34 (17-49) miles and 50 (36-68) minutes. The median (IQR) parking time was 14 (12-15) minutes. Overall, the median (IQR) total time was 197 (143-287) minutes. The median total times for specific service type(s) included: 99 minutes for lab-only, 144 minutes for clinician visit only, and 278 minutes for labs, clinician visit, and infusion. Conclusion: Patients often spent several hours pursuing ambulatory cancer care on a given day. Accounting for opportunity time costs and the coordination of activities around ambulatory care, these results highlight the substantial time burdens of cancer care, and support the notion that many days with ambulatory health care contact may represent “lost days.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)400-406
Number of pages7
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024. Published by Oxford University Press.


  • ambulatory appointments
  • contact days
  • logistic toxicity
  • time burdens
  • time toxicity

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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