adelphia and vice-versa. There is true collaboration with both groups in order to provide expedited patient services. Navigators provide advocacy, education and support for patients and families across the continuum of care.
“Often, when a patient’s treatment is complete, their question is, ‘What’s next?’” says Cindy Brockway, Director of Oncology Support Services. We provide Survivorship Navigation to assist patients in answering this question. Survivorship planning focuses on a follow-up plan including medical visits, screenings, treatment summaries, educational materials, and team contact information. Patients and families may benefit from a support group during their active treatment and during survivorship. Because of the integration, the navigators and social workers are able to refer to support groups here in West Chester. “If there isn’t a particular support group locally, there may be one available at other Penn locations, such as Valley Forge, Radnor, Lancaster or a location downtown,” Brockway adds.
Another crucial component that integration provides is bringing cutting-edge research, clinical trials, and treatments closer to home for Chester County patients. “The biggest area for us, in radiation, is access to clinical trials that patients otherwise wouldn’t have been able to participate in to test new treatments,” says Dr. Andre A. Konski, Medical Director of the hospital’s Department of Radiation Oncology and a Professor of Clinical Radiation Oncology at Penn Medicine. “We have upgraded our technology and we are using it in new and innovative ways that will allow us to treat cancer patients in the community without making them travel to Philadelphia.”
Such access can be critical to a patient’s quality of life. “If you’re not feeling well, it’s hard to make an hour drive into Philadelphia for treatment and then have another hour drive home,” adds Dr. Konski. “Better to have the same treatment regimens available here and drive 10 minutes. That makes a big difference for patients and their families, reducing their stress and the financial burden they have to endure.”
Consistency of care
Even more important from the patient perspective, integration means that wherever care is received in the Penn Medicine network, the same exacting, high-quality standards will be in place.
“Try to imagine if someone is sick and scared, and wondering where the best place is to go for treatment. We want to be able to say that whether they visit a Penn Medicine office in Valley Forge or Radnor or one of our locations in West Chester, Exton or Kennett Square, the care, the protocols, the quality controls, down to how doses are mixed in the pharmacy, are all the same high quality,” Dr. Berman says.
“Penn Medicine spans a large group of practices, from the University of Pennsylvania Hospital to Lancaster General, coming online to groups in Cherry Hill, so the goal is to provide the same quality, standardized care across the network.”
“There’s a lot of planning going on that wasn’t happening before,” says Dr. James Metz, chairman of Penn Medicine’s Department of Radiation Oncology and the Henry K. Pancoast Professor of Radiation Oncology. “Communication between physicians at Penn Medicine and Chester County has gone up exponentially. We’re evaluating pathways to deliver the best care, both locally and system-wide.”
Chester County Hospital’s integration provides almost as many therapies and treatments available in Chester County as there are in Philadelphia. Leading oncology surgeons and neurosurgeons are just as likely to be working in the suburbs as the city.
“Integration is going great, and it is fabulous for patients,” Dr. Berman says. “For staff, there has been a work flow change – you can’t always do things the way you were used to doing them – personally I think it’s going very well.”
Dr. Metz agrees, “The integration has been very smooth. You can feel the excitement in Chester County and at Penn Medicine downtown to make this successful and it’s great to see. In the end, it’s the patients who are going to benefit.”
The integration also comes at an important moment for cancer treatment.
“This is a really exciting time from an oncology standpoint,” Dr. Berman says. “There are so many new treatments coming online, including cellular and targeted treatments. I’ve been in practice a long time, and before we might see modest gains in treatments, say with melanoma or lung cancer, and now we can make major inroads. Former President Jimmy Carter, for example, had melanoma in the brain, and he is now cancer free. This is pretty exciting stuff.”
Those times, combined with the integration between Chester County Hospital and Penn Medicine, bode well for patients.
And, as Dean Jameson said in his 2015 speech: “If we have the right people, armed with the right resources and tools, and the right culture, we’ll thrive.”
Dr. Chi Van Dang, Mike Duncan, Dr. Dennis Berman, Dr. Lynn Schuchter, and Ralph Muller were among the leaders who established Abramson Cancer Center at Chester County Hospital.