As the continuum of cancer care grows, more hospitals are going the extra mile for their patients.
This article first appeared in the November 2016 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.
It doesn't matter that the care is good if the caring doesn't happen," says George Raptis, MD, acting executive director of Northwell Health Cancer Institute, which encompasses cancer services throughout 21 hospitals and approximately 500 ambulatory sites in metropolitan New York.
"We have to do more for our patients than care for them," he says. "They spend their frequent flyer miles. They spend significant time waiting to see us. They spend significant time getting treatment. And on a humane level, we need to do more than have them stare at the wall. We have to make them feel better."
While making patients feel better includes helping them manage symptoms of disease and side effects of treatment, that's not all. Northwell, like a growing number of organizations, has also embedded an array of nontraditional support services into its oncology service line, aimed to help guide patients with cancer and their families through the entire continuum of care.
"You cannot provide chemotherapy alone," says Raptis, who specializes in breast oncology.
"If a person doesn't have easy access to rehab medicine for decreased range of motion, those patients are going to walk around with arms that are stiff and painful or be on pain medicines that have side effects," he explains.
"If I don't ask if they're having financial toxicity, then they're going to be anxious and they're not going to get the care they need."
To address these needs, more hospitals are providing patients access to financial counseling, social workers, support groups, palliative care, wig banks, music therapy, art therapy, massage, reflexology, and more.
Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.