Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BREAST CANCER AWARENESS -

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.

Clin­i­cal tri­als

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.”

New sci­ence

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.

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