Making Cancer Make Sense – Crain’s Chicago Business on Supportive Oncology Collborative

“With help from a $2.3 million grant, eight Chicago-area hospitals are testing out a popular new patient-centered care model developed by local researchers, ” Stephanie Goldberg writes, for Crain’s Chicago Business.

Eight Chicago-area hospitals are trying out a new approach to cancer care, in hopes of making it easier for patients and their caregivers to navigate the health care system.

The group, which includes big names such as Northwestern Medicine, UChicago Medicine and Advocate Aurora Health, aims to coordinate the often fragmented activities of various physicians and other professionals involved in treating a cancer patient. Under the new approach, oncologists, nutritionists, psychologists and others work together to create a personalized, comprehensive treatment plan for each person.

The “4R” model is designed to provide “the right information and the right care for the right patient at the right time,” says Rosa Berardi, senior program officer at the Coleman Foundation. The Chicago-based nonprofit is providing $2.3 million to fund the pilot that builds on Coleman’s Supportive Oncology Collaborative which, since launching in 2014, has trained more than 150 professionals from more than 40 local organizations on meeting the needs of cancer patients.

Researchers at the Center for Business Models in Healthcare worked with Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine to develop the new model.

Each participating institution, selected based on level of expertise and capacity to provide screening tools and staff, will focus on up to two cancer types:

  • Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital: breast
  • Advocate Sherman Hospital: breast
  • NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center: gastrointestinal and lung
  • Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital: breast and colorectal
  • Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University: breast and colorectal
  • Rush University Medical Center: lung and colorectal
  • University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System: lung and colorectal
  • UChicago Medicine: colorectal and lung

The two-year-long pilot officially kicked off last month, but there’s a lot to plan before patients become involved around June, said Christine Weldon, one of the researchers who developed the 4R concept a decade ago.

“We need to collect data before and after the improvements to see if we’ve had the right impact,” added Weldon, director of the Center for Business Models in Healthcare and adjunct faculty member at Feinberg. “Let’s say putting these care plans in place increases some costs. For example, we anticipate more patients being referred for nutrition services, which can be hard to reimburse for health systems. The programs may spend more but, it’s good for the patient. We’re tracking the impacts so organizations can make the proper adjustments.”

Berardi said Coleman’s grant is meant to cover the costs of implementing the model.

Local participants will benefit from lessons learned during the first 4R pilot several years ago, which involved 15 institutions around the country—including Chicago’s Mercy Hospital & Medical Center, as well as current participants Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, who will be starting the process from scratch.

“Patients when they get cancer tend to forget about the rest of the things going on with their health because it’s such an overwhelming diagnosis,” Weldon said, which is why the 4R model adds chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure to patients’ care plans. Providing a roadmap of sorts, so patients know what’s to come, also helps them “proactively manage their own care.”

For example, it’s recommended that patients get a flu shot at least two weeks before receiving chemotherapy. Making that known has led some cancer clinics to start offering the vaccine on-site rather than sending patients elsewhere, Weldon said.

“We already know it works and that patients are satisfied with the care,” she added. The next step is helping institutions implement the model for their patients. Read more