TEAMING UP TO BATTLE CANCER

 

June 12, 2019

TEAMING UP TO BATTLE CANCER

Patient Care Teams Serve Patients from Diagnosis to Survivorship

APPLETON, Wis. – A diagnosis of cancer is a life-changing moment.

Team members of Cancer Care at ThedaCare know that a patient’s focus from the moment of diagnosis onward is to get well.

“Our patient care teams are an incredible support system around our patients and their healthcare providers,” said Donna Boehm, director of ThedaCare Cancer Care. “ThedaCare has state-of-the-art equipment and physicians who are highly experienced.”

Patient care teams are designed to assist patients and their families on the road to good health in every way possible, from diagnosis through survivorship.

“Combined with our patient care teams, we offer the best care possible,” said Boehm. “That includes care at the Regional Cancer Center in Appleton and also in Neenah, Oshkosh and our outlying locations in Berlin, New London, Shawano and Waupaca.”

Each of the care teams consist of an oncologist (MD), an advanced practice clinician (APC – either a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant), a clinical/infusion nurse, a medical assistant, a navigator, a scheduler and a patient financial advocate, explained Amy Vosters, supervisor of hematology and oncology.

Dietitians, pharmacists, phlebotomists, behavioral health counselors, integrated medicine providers, cosmetologists and more support those teams to provide a full range of services for those going through treatment. ThedaCare’s medical, radiation and surgical oncology physicians all work with similar patient care teams.

Medical Oncologist Dr. Anthony Phillips and his care team see patients at ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton. The team also travels to ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca.

“Our team is the same at the Regional Center and the Waupaca clinic. We travel together, creating cohesion in our group,” he said. “That improves communication because we know each other and know how we work. It also creates a lot of familiar faces for our patients and their families, which can provide comfort for them.”

One of the patients benefiting from the stability of the care teams is Jeanne Kirk. She is going through treatment and is being seen in Waupaca.

“I like the idea of a consistent care team,” she said. “I feel less anxious when I see the same doctor and nurses each time. They know about me, and can tell if I'm having a good day or am struggling. They know my diagnosis and my routine.”

Jeanne also said she feels the team is on this journey with her, helping along the way.

“Having cancer in stressful enough,” she said. “Knowing that I don't have to meet someone new each time I go in provides comfort. There are two nurses who have been with me since I was first diagnosed nine years ago. When I see them, I have a feeling of familiarity and trust. It's a comfort to have them take care of me.”

“We feel patients really enjoy the same people and knowing that their needs are being met at any location,” said Daisy Boehm, APC/NP on Dr. Phillips’ team. “They can call with a problem and talk with a nurse on their team who knows their situation.”

The care teams reflect the ThedaCare commitment to expert, local care.

“The teams help provide the best quality care we can close to the patient’s home,” said Dr. Phillips. “That’s why we made a big commitment to have our oncology teams travel to the outlying clinics where our patients live.”   

Other critical members of the patient care team include the patient navigator, who meets with the patient immediately upon diagnosis and at any critical juncture in their care.

“Their goal is to help the patient wade through the entire treatment process and to understand what’s needed,” said Vosters. “Navigators can help answer important questions about the patient’s care.”

Navigators can also help patients with insurance and assistance programs. If a patient needs a ride to their treatment appointment, navigators will assist them. Or, for example, if they need dental care before they can continue with oral cancer treatment, navigators will look for community resources to get the patient financial assistance for that work.

Schedulers are another critical component of the team. When a patient is finished with their appointment with the doctor or APC and needs follow-up care, the scheduler organizes appointments for the patient to have lab work completed, to have imaging done and/or plan further treatment.

“A person going through treatment has a lot of appointments and we would like to help them organize those appointments. That’s the job of the scheduler. Patients need to focus on healing,” said Vosters. “Schedulers and navigators regularly work together to make sure the patient’s treatment plan keeps moving forward.”

The patient financial advocate (PFA) works with the patient’s insurance company to help secure approval for costs of treatment. Vosters adds that there are a variety of foundations or grants that can help support a patient’s care and we help to connect patients for assistance.

“Our patient care teams are great people committed to cancer care, with the patient at the center of all care,” said Donna Boehm. “There is a high level of commitment here at ThedaCare. We are fortunate that we have such a great program in Northeast and Central Wisconsin.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.