Speakers discuss team approach to cancer care
By Angie Landsverk
ThedaCare wants to create the premier cancer care center north of Milwaukee.
“The only way we can provide optimal care is by working together, sharing information and supporting each other. It’s a complex disease. This is why we need to constantly learn,” Dr. Matthias Weiss said during ThedaCare’s Wednesday, Oct. 7, Community Conversation at Waupaca Ale House.
Each year, the nonprofit meets with business and community leaders over breakfast as part of its regional Community Conversations.
This year’s topics included the evolution of cancer care, trauma response and community health.
When the ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center opens in Appleton next February, it will have a team approach to cancer care, said Weiss, who also sees patients in Waupaca.
Referring to how those with breast cancer see a countless number of people in medicine, Weiss said, “We need to learn from this process and expand it to all forms of cancer.”
The goal is to have a program which is patient and family centered, evidence based, multi-disciplinary, team based, coordinated and close to home, he said.
Coordination will begin at the time of a suspected diagnosis of cancer, Weiss said.
“We have to look at the care as a service area, how many services are needed at each center. That is the coordinated part,” he said.
Stacy Toyama, vice president of ThedaCare Cancer Care, said every patient will be connected with a navigator.
The navigator will guide patients through information, arrange appointments, and assist with stress screenings and financial consulting.
Some forms of that will be delivered at the local level.
She said teams of individuals, including patients and community members, were involved in the planning and design of the new regional cancer center.
Among the details they paid attention to were how comfortable chairs were, Toyama said.
“We designed the exam rooms based on the fact that patients many times want their family members to be with them,” she said.
At the center, there will be treatment room options, so patients may decide whether they want to be alone or with others.
Craig Kantos, chief executive officer of ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca, said that choice is offered here as well.
He also said the hospital’s new oncology area now looks over the Crystal River instead of over a parking lot.
Those receiving a cancer diagnosis will receive financial counseling within five days, and support for family members of cancer patients will also be available, Toyama said.
Over the past year, ThedaCare was able to recruit some of the best physicians from across the country, she said, before describing Weiss as “visionary” and saying Waupaca is lucky to have him involved here.
Dr. Dean Gruner, ThedaCare president and CEO, shared an example related to the evolution of cancer care.
When he started medical school in 1976, the amount of time from when someone had a biopsy until it could be looked at under a microscope and analyzed was two to three days.
That did not change and was considered part of the “Bible of Medicine,” he said.
A group of people got together and said, “What if we could shorten that by a whole day?” Gruner said. “They spent three days working on that project and figuring out a way to shorten it by one day.”
That resulted in one less night people have to wait for the knowledge of a test, he said.
“I think we’re the only one in the country doing that,” Gruner said.
With the theme of this year’s Community Conversation “It’s About Time,” Gruner said, it is time “for ThedaCare to work more like a healthcare system and a system for all of you.”
In the past, there were various logos in the system, which confused people, he said.
“We thought it’s about time to change who we are. Locally, you’ve seen the signs go up,” Gruner said.
The branding effort to rename the hospitals with the ThedaCare moniker took place this year.
Kantos said the new name provides clarity.
“One hospital, seven campuses and one exceptional experience,” is the motto, he said.
Collaboration is also part of trauma care, and ThedaCare plans to bring its Rural Trauma Team Development Course to Waupaca.
Gruner also talked about the amount of time ThedaCare providers and staff spend outside of hospitals and clinics to improve health.
That paid time totaled more than 93,000 hours in the past year, he said.
In 2014, ThedaCare provided about $40 million in unreimbursed services, including unreimbursed medical care, health professional education and community benefit activities.
The community benefit in the Waupaca area was about $2.8 million in 2014.