Northwestern Medicine

Northwestern Medicine Chicago Researchers Roll Out Best Practices for Supportive Care of Cancer Patients

Northwestern Memorial Hospital August 17, 2015

Best practices designed by Northwestern Medicine researchers to evaluate the needs of cancer patients begin testing

CHICAGO, IL – Northwestern Medicine® and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University are working with key community stakeholders to guide the implementation of best practices for distress screening and survivorship care among cancer patients across the Chicago community as part of the Coleman Supportive Oncology Initiative (CSOI)* funded by the Coleman Foundation. Distress screening involves administering surveys by care providers to identify physical and emotional burdens cancer patients may be experiencing, and provide access to care and resources to address their needs. The survivorship care component involves addressing the needs of patients once they have completed primary treatment and providing them with a survivorship care plan that includes key information about their treatment, follow-up, as well as healthy lifestyle recommendations.

“Having a screening and referral process in place for the emotional and physical needs of cancer patients is critical to providing optimal care and maximizing quality of life during an often challenging period,” said Frank J. Penedo, PhD, principal investigator of the CSOI’s distress screening and survivorship initiative teams and director of the Lurie Cancer Center’s Cancer Survivorship Institute. “Having a system in place that provides patients with the opportunity to report their physical, emotional and practical concerns allows their care team to address their needs and refer them to a provider that can help. Concerns like depression, anxiety, or even lack of knowledge, transportation or childcare can get in the way of treatment and follow-up. By identifying these problem areas, we can help patients tap into the best available resources, address these needs and optimize their care”.

The ultimate goal of the CSOI is to enhance supportive care services that improve quality of life for patients and families affected by cancer by reducing physical and emotional burdens throughout the cancer care continuum, from diagnosis through survivorship and end of life care. The approach of the initiative to achieve this goal is two-fold, to ensure that patients:

  • Receive regular screening for distress and the need for psychosocial support or palliative care
  • Obtain any needed services from high-quality care providers
The CSOI, in partnership with the Center for Business Models in Healthcare, began by assembling 35 Chicago-area institutions, including cancer treatment centers, support centers and hospice providers, and asking them to identify areas of greatest need in supportive cancer care. This initial study led to a conclusion that cancer care organizations need to implement supportive care services that are individually tailored to patients’ needs, using collaborative care across care sites.

To meet this need, Northwestern Medicine and the Lurie Cancer Center were selected to manage design teams to develop distress screening and survivorship care best practices with the assistance of six other Chicago hospitals. NorthShore University Health Systems was also selected by the CSOI to manage design teams that would develop best practices for palliative care and hospice referral. The six Chicago hospitals implementing the Coleman Supportive Oncology designed processes include:

  • Rush University Medical Center
  • University of Chicago Medical Center
  • University of Illinois Hospital
  • Mercy Hospital
  • Sinai Hospital
  • John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County
The Center for Business Models in Healthcare provides care delivery and methodological support across design and implementation efforts, focused on how best practices may be integrated by cancer centers, using provider and care process stratification based on patient needs, and each site’s capacity and resources.

“We recognize that to achieve the best possible outcomes and quality of life, cancer care must include a combined focus on the physical, emotional and practical needs of patients across the continuum of care,” said Rosa Berardi, program officer of the Coleman Foundation. “We are hopeful that through this Initiative, all institutions in the Chicago metro area will be propelled and equipped to provide supportive oncology care to all cancer patients.”

The Initiative was first inspired as a result of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) 2013 report, “Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis,” which outlined recommendations for improved supportive care and services for patients with cancer across the care continuum. Most Chicago cancer centers have implemented or started implementation of some of these aspects, but none of them have achieved the level of quality and service delivery the IOM report says is needed. In addition, American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer* new accreditation standards, which took effect January 1, 2015, require accredited centers to provide proactive distress screenings, access to palliative care and a survivorship treatment summary and care plan for cancer patients based on their individual medical needs.

Visit The Coleman Foundation* to learn more about the CSOI. Learn more information about cancer care at Northwestern Medicine and the Lurie Cancer Center. Find out more about the Cancer Survivorship Institute at the Lurie Cancer Center.

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