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Geisinger Medical Center’s Cancer Institute Joins the NCCCP

TOP - December 2010, Vol 3, No 8 published on November 30, 2010

This past April, Geisinger Medical Center’s (GMC) Cancer Institute became one of 14 sites added to the National Cancer Institute Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP). Joining this national network of community cancer centers offers GMC the opportunity to expand its state-of-the-art cancer care and research in northeast Pennsylvania.

GMC is a part of Geisinger Health System (Geisinger), which serves a mostly rural population and has cancer centers in Danville, Wilkes-Barre, State College, and Hazleton. Geisinger takes pride in its innovative approach to healthcare delivery to this population, which also includes many elderly patients. In addition, a significant portion is underserved because of socioeconomic status and transportation problems. Thanjavur Ravikumar, MD, FACS, director of the Center for Surgical Innovation, and co-chair of the oncology service line at that serving this mix of patients marries well with the NCCCP’s mission of reducing cancer healthcare disparities. NCCCP cancer centers are directed to increase programs to reach the underserved in their communities more effectively, thus improving access to cancer screening, treatment, and research.

Community outreach
The centerpiece at Geisinger is value-based healthcare delivery, a philosophy evident in its advanced patientcentered medical home program, known as ProvenHealth Nav igator. At Geis inger, medical homes are caregivers, such as primary care physicians or nurse case managers, who provide service excellence beyond just seeing patients in an acute

-care setting. Their proactive approach to chronic diseases is recognized by the National Com mittee for Quality Assurance—all 40 facilities distributed throughout Geisinger’s community have been recognized as Level 3, the highest level awarded for the medical home model.

This philosophy of managing patients through a disease continuum that is continued into wellness programs—a philosophy that is also practiced by Geisinger’s cancer specialists—parallels the NCCCP’s vision of cancer as a disease continuum, according to Ravikumar. NCCCP cancer centers are tasked with improving the quality of care at community hospitals by promoting datadriven, evidence-based, and coordinated cancer care. In addition, NCCCP cancer centers are working to enhance their cancer survivorship and palliative care services.

With a $1.7-million award from the NCCCP, Geisinger hopes to reach these goals. To do so, Geisinger will use its medical home model to reach patients and physicians who are not members of the Geisinger system. “We need to provide the same services to both Geisinger patients and non-Geisinger patients in the 11 counties that surround us,” said Ravikumar in an interview with The Oncology Pharmacist. “Our plan through the NCCCP, our obligation, is to all patients in the counties that we serve.”

According to Ravikumar, Geisinger plans to reach out to area physicians who are not participants in the Geisinger system through the Keystone Health Information Exchange (KeyHIE) initiative. This initiative aims to provide healthcare professionals with the timely information they need to provide the best care possible for their patients. Through the initiative’s master patient list, patients’ charts and all medical information that reside at any partici

pating hospital can be accessed through a secure web-based browser.


Information technology
GMC’s Cancer Institute also has “significant strength in information technology,” noted Ravikumar. This is another area that marries well with the NCCCP’s mission. NCCCP cancer centers are charged with exploring what is needed to adapt or adopt the tools of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) cancer Bioinformatics Grid (caBIG) as well as to enhance their electronic health record (EHR) networks to support and link cancer patients and researchers nationwide. “What the NCCCP wants to do is connect all the cancer centers in the country through a grid called caBIG. They are trying to bring everyone up to speed. We are already advanced in that area, so perhaps the NCCCP thought that it would be a good thing for centers like ours to lead the way,” said Ravikumar.

For the past 8 years, Geisinger has been recognized as one of the nation’s “100 Most Wired Hospitals and Health Systems” by Hospitals & Health Networks (H&HN), the journal of the American Hospital Association. As one of the most digitally advanced healthcare providers in the nation, Geisinger uses information technology to address safety and quality, customer service, business processes, workforce, and public health.

In addition, Geisinger already has a very robust biospecimen initiative through MyCode. Currently, MyCode has 20,000 DNA samples from patients throughout Geisinger. Patients at all levels of health are asked to participate, provide a blood sample, and give consent for its use in research. “If any studies need to be done across the cancer research at the community level, we are well positioned to carry out the mission of the NCCCP,” explained Ravikumar. To help the NCCCP reach its goal of applying NCI Best Practices for Biospecimen Re sources to enable all community cancer centers to contribute to the national biobank, Geisinger is expanding its specimen collection beyond Geisinger-affiliated cancer centers by “helping them retrieve the specimen when they operate on cancer patients,” Ravikumar said.

As a member of the Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP), Geisinger already has 11 of the 15 NCCCP clinical trials open at its cancer centers. According to Ravikumar, Geisinger plans to expand those 11 trials and open the additional four trials to patients in its community. Because of its rural patient base, Geisinger will offer trials at multiple sites so, as Ravikumar explains, the patients “do not have to come to us in our main center.” In addition, Geisinger accrues to trials through other oncology groups including the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group and the North Central Cancer Treatment Group. “Using the NCCCP mechanism, we are going to make these trials available to people in the community through outreach and navigators and transportation service,” explained Ravikumar. “In addition, for clinical trials, we are going to enlist oncologists, radiation doctors, surgeons, and primary care physicians who are not Geisinger physicians and make sure that they have access to NCCCP clinical trials.”

Quality care
All of this, of course, is about the quality of care delivered. “We have some ideas of how we will use our EHR and our model of ProvenHealth to improve the quality of patient care, so every patient gets the same level of care,” said Ravikumar, a surgeon by profession. This care will continue through the disease continuum and include survivorship and palliative care. This past year, Geisinger has launched the Geisinger accelerated performance program (GAPP) initiative. “One of the central focuses of the GAPP initiative is palliative care, making sure that the patients that we cannot cure we offer palliation as a focus and that we keep their quality of life central to our mission.”

GMC’s Cancer Institute will not be resting on its laurels. By becoming an NCCCP cancer center, Geisinger hopes to improve on its delivery of innovation and discovery and to enhance its diffusion of research and technology to positively influence cancer care today and tomorrow. Ravikumar looks forward to working with the other physician directors at the other sites. “We belong to the club. We may have one model. Others may other models. We will basically learn from each other,” Ravikumar said

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Last modified: July 22, 2021