PHILADELPHIA (January 12, 2016) – Care Connect, an innovative program created by Fox Chase Cancer Center – Temple Health, shows promise for improving the coordination of care between oncologists and community physicians for the growing number of cancer survivors.
Established in 2015, the Care Connect program provides a seamless continuum of care through educational support, improved communication between provider groups, and speedy referrals with the goal of improving outcomes for patients. Preliminary results of the program were presented on January 15 at the Cancer Survivorship Symposium hosted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in San Francisco, California.
“The novelty of the program is the use of education and dialogue among the cancer care team with primary care physicians in a seamless fashion,” said John M. Daly, MD, FACS, FRCSI (Hon), a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase and lead author of the study. “Expansion of this concept will allow research into the interaction of patients’ other medical problems with their cancer diagnoses in order to maximize their recovery from therapy.”
Due to tremendous progress in cancer care in recent years, more people are surviving cancer than ever before. Although the growing number of survivors is a welcome sign of progress, the flip side is that many of these individuals require significant, ongoing care, such as surveillance for cancer recurrence, screening for new cancers, and care for the long-term effects of their initial treatment.
As time from an initial diagnosis elapses, survivors are more likely to receive care from their primary care practitioners closer to home and at a lower overall cost. Survivors with several medical problems may receive care from multiple providers, underscoring the need for enhanced communication amongst these groups. Because uniform standards for the care of survivors have not been fully established, significant efforts are required to understand the needs of survivors and to develop models of comprehensive, coordinated care that meet those needs.
Fox Chase’s Care Connect program was established to address these challenges by offering easy access to physicians who have knowledge in the latest developments of cancer care.
After completion of the three-month pilot phase, 16 primary care physician practices have joined the program to manage ongoing clinical needs and implement survivorship plans. The average time from referral to an appointment with a primary care physician is only 16 days—24 percent below the regional average.
To date, two continuing medical education programs have been conducted. Eighty-seven percent of the attendees reported they plan to change current practice by implementing a new procedure or incorporating new information. The program attendees also identified potential care barriers, such as insurance and financial problems, as well as patient adherence, which will be addressed through future program development.
"As we expand the program, our next steps are to develop patient education materials for use in primary care physician offices, increase one-to-one interactions between oncologists and primary care physicians at educational offerings, and conduct physician surveys or focus groups for the continued evaluation of the program,” said Kelly Filchner, RN, MSN, OCN, CCRC, director of Clinical Operations at Fox Chase Cancer Center Partners and a co-author on the study.