Patients to benefit from new regional Integrated Network Cancer Program | TheUnion.com

Patients to benefit from new regional Integrated Network Cancer Program

Brandy Kolmer
Special to The Union

Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital's Community Cancer Center recently celebrated the successful formation of a new cancer treatment network, which connects physicians and resources from three regional cancer centers.

According to Dr. David Kraus, medical director of radiation oncology at SNMH, the new Integrated Network Cancer Program links the cancer centers of SNMH, Mercy General Hospital and Mercy San Juan Hospital, all Dignity Health facilities.

The ultimate goal of the network is continual improvement in cancer care for patients.

"Advances in cancer treatment are happening quickly, from genetic and molecular testing to new medications and treatments," explained Debbie Plass, Vice President of Operations at SNMH. "By combining our shared knowledge, expertise and resources, we can connect patients with the best treatments, specialists and innovations."

One of the more tangible benefits that patients may notice is the addition of oncology nurse navigators at each cancer center.

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These specially trained RNs assist patients diagnosed with cancer in accessing a wide variety of care options and resources, from identifying oncologists and surgeons, to emotional, physical and financial support.

After working with cancer patients in our community for more than 10 years, Laurie Ells, RN, BSN, OCN, now serves as nurse navigator through the INCP. She says the opportunity to help patients educate themselves and manage their care is gratifying.

"I enjoy being able to provide them with information about their disease, what medications they have been prescribed and of what to be aware," Ells said. "I also share how adding complimentary therapies such as exercise, nutrition and spiritual support can improve their outcomes and how to get access to those resources."

The INCP will also create new access for patients to participate in clinical trials, testing new cancer treatment and research.

As a combined network, all three hospitals will collaborate on clinical trials, and offer them at every site.

Another exciting area of advancement is molecular testing (also known as precision medicine). Molecular testing allows doctors to look at tumor tissue for certain "biomarkers," which are substances or abnormalities that can be detected in the tumor tissue and used to predict prognosis and guide treatment.

"This approach to patient care allows doctors to select treatments that are most likely to help patients based on a genetic understanding of their disease," explained Rachel McConachie, RN, BSN, Director of Clinical Operations for the Dignity Health Cancer Institute of Greater Sacramento.

In fact, according to Plass, molecular testing is now used by the cancer centers in their review of complex cases at meetings called Cancer Care Conferences. These conferences bring together specialists from a variety of disciplines to review a patient's case from the vantage points of radiology, surgery, social work, nutrition, genetics and other disciplines in order to refine the care approach.

The SNMH Executive Board recognized Kraus recently for his leadership as chairperson of the new regional INCP, a role he has held since May 2016. He was instrumental in helping the INCP achieve accreditation from the American College of Surgeons this past January with an impressive Silver Level Commendation.

"Our accreditation as an Integrated Network Cancer Program ensures quality patient standards through new and innovative practices," McConachie said. "Dr. Kraus was a champion for the network by providing excellent leadership through collaboration with hospital leadership and staff."

Plass also acknowledged SNMH Community Cancer Center team members, Rebecca Parsons, oncology LCSW, and Lynn Love, cancer registrar, for their instrumental roles in preparing for the American College of Surgeons accreditation.

"INCP establishes, for the first time in Dignity Health history, an integrated cancer network amongst three Dignity Health hospitals," says Dr. Costanzo Di Perna, Vice President of Dignity Health Oncology Services. "Through this integration, our cancer outcomes, treatment strategies, and patient experience will not only be synchronized but overall brought to world-class quality. Thanks to the support and vision of Laurie Harting, Senior Vice President of Dignity Health, we have accomplished this for our patients."

The result is something our community can be proud of — and something that will benefit all those in our community touched by cancer.

"This represents an evolution in longstanding patient care collaboration between the three Dignity Health institutions within the INCP," said Kraus.

Living healthy along your cancer journey

Education is an important component of the new Integrated Network Cancer Program. On Thursday, April 12, attend the free program, Living Healthy Along Your Cancer Journey, which offers strategies for healing the mind, body and soul. Speakers will include Surgeon Jeffrey Rosenberg, MD, author Molly Fisk, and experts in music therapy, support groups and physical therapy. The program is 6-8 p.m. at the Goldminer’s Inn, Grass Valley. RSVP by calling 916-926-8893.

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