Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

May 14, 2014

Munson collaborates on cancer care

TRAVERSE CITY – Christa Kiessel expects future cancer treatment at Munson Medical Center to differ from treatment received there even as recently as two years ago.

“I’d say a year prior to last fall, we had excellent providers but not so much a team approach to providing care,” said Kiessel, oncology director at Munson. “A more fragmented approach to caring for the cancer patient.”

Munson is building the Cowell Family Cancer Center just north of the hospital.

The center will house all its cancer experts, such as oncologists, oncology financial navigators, dietitians, physical therapists and social workers. It’s a new outlook on cancer care, a trend where surgeons, oncologists, radiologists and other specialists work together to create a treatment plan for each patient.

Derk Pronger, Munson vice president of operations, said collaboration will mean patients get treatment plans faster.

“Traditionally when somebody gets diagnosed with cancer they have to meet with multiple specialists in order to get a treatment plan,” he said. “It’s very difficult to schedule these types of visits.”

Munson cancer specialists already collaborate to treat thoracic cancer, or lung and chest cancer, and invite patients to participate in those meetings. Kiessel said breast cancer collaboration is the next step since it’s the most common cancer in the area with 260 cases in 2012.

Getting those specialists in one room to talk about a patient’s treatment should keep that patient healthier, but it’s not inherently cost-effective.

“Their productivity, technically, is not as high as if they were in their offices cranking out patient-after-patient,” Kiessel said.

But when patients get better treatment they should have fewer emergency room visits and spend less time in hospital beds, which could lead to savings.

“The benefits are obvious to the patient, but there are also benefits that may not be as black and white as having 35 patients in your office and now you’re only seeing 20,” Kiessel said. “(The benefits are being) able to focus energy on prevention and screening, developing that broad range of service. Not just treating illness, we’re also bringing providers together to look at the whole picture.”

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