Mid-West Medical Collaborative Shows Promise In Improving Cancer Care

Mid-West Medical Collaborative Shows Promise In Improving Cancer Care, Doctors and medical staff join across institutions in first initiative of its kind.

The Chicago-based Coleman Foundation launched the Coleman Supportive Oncology Collaborative (CSOC) to improve care for patients with cancer. In just two years, results are so promising that participating hospitals and medical centers have committed new staff positions to expand services to more patients, and The Coleman Foundation approved an additional $1.5 million to continue the work and include more institutions.


“A cancer diagnosis can trigger a whole lot of anxiety, depression, and distress for patients and their families,” explained Michael Hennessy, president of The Coleman Foundation, which has contributed over $30 million to support cancer treatment and patient services in the Chicago area over the past 36 years. “Quality care requires treating the whole patient, not just their cancer.”


According to the American Cancer Society, one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime. Recently, national cancer organizations are recognizing the outsized role supportive oncology can play in improving cancer care, and recommending supportive services delivery.


Eager to fill the void between national guidelines and evidence-based practices, The Coleman Foundation convened 135 physicians and medical professionals from 29 institutions to work together.  Participants in the Collaborative represent large and small academic, community, and safety net hospitals, cancer support centers, palliative and hospice organizations, and patient advocacy groups. Team members rolled up their sleeves to create business models for supportive oncology care, collect data, and leverage institutional change. Teams created screening tools, professional training, and practice models and tested them across a wide range of institutions and populations.


“We piloted the supportive oncology screening tool with about 80 percent of new cancer patients in 2016,” explained CSOC Principal Investigator James Gerhart, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Behavioral Sciences at Rush University Medical Center. “Cancer patients can have a difficult time complying with medical treatment for a variety of social and emotional reasons. By regularly screening patients, our clinicians are able to identify and address patient’s issues and care concerns. From reducing missed appointments to avoiding ER and hospital readmissions, to the overall improved quality of life for our patients, we know that offering supportive oncology is the right thing to do,” professed Gerhart. Rush University Medical Center will be expanding screenings and providing follow-up services to all cancer patients in 2017.


Cancer care teams at pilot sites regularly screen patients for distress and support patients by guiding them in making decisions, as well as linking them to community resources. CSOC member institutions hired additional social workers, nurses, psychologists, and oncology fellows.


“Through collaborative stakeholders, we are collecting data, working with insurance companies to encourage reimbursement for supportive services, and helping institutions integrate screening questions, service referrals and documentation into their electronic medical records,” revealed Christine Weldon, principal of Center for Business Models in Healthcare, a health services research firm that is guiding the collaborative along with Rosa Berardi of The Coleman Foundation.


“Over the next few months, the CSOC will be making its screening tools and resources widely available to healthcare providers at no cost,” added Weldon. The CSOC also created a 26-part supportive oncology training program. The educational series offers CME credit at no cost to medical professionals through the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.


Members of the Collaborative include medical professionals from the following organizations:

Advocate Health Care, Cadence Health Care System, Cancer Wellness Center, Cancer Support Center, Community Cancer Center, Gilda’s Club of Chicago, Home of Hope, Hult Center for Healthy Living, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, JourneyCare, LivingWell Cancer Resource Center, Loyola University Medical Center, Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, Methodist Medical Center of Illinois/UnityPoint, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Northwestern Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, Sinai Health System, Swedish Covenant Hospital, University of Chicago Medicine, University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, Wellness House.  Advisory Team support includes representatives from American Cancer Society, American Society of Clinical Oncologists, Aurora Health, City of Hope, Healing Pathways, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the Livestrong Foundation.


The Coleman Foundation is funding concurrent Chicago-area cancer care initiatives that include a Supportive Oncology Collaborative for Children with Cancer and the Coleman Palliative Medicine Training Program, a collaborative program training 200 professionals across 35 local institutions to address the shortage of medical providers trained in palliative medicine. The Coleman Foundation, which was established in 1951 by the original owners of Fannie May Candies, also supports programs for people with developmental disabilities and entrepreneurship education programs.


Download the press release for a media backgrounder on the project and brief videohttp://bit.ly/csoc228