Rising cancer rates and fierce competition for patients are prompting the Miami Valley’s two biggest health systems to put a renewed focus on expanding cancer services.
The emphasis on cancer care is leading to millions invested in new Dayton-area facilities and technologies for treatments.
Because people are living longer, more people are likely to develop cancer in their lifetimes, health experts say. Cancer is a leading cause of death along with heart disease.
In response, Kettering Health Network and Premier Health are expanding cancer services throughout the region in heavy competition with one another.
“We don’t do absolutely 100 percent of everything in Dayton, some things have to be referred out, but for the majority of cancer care, it can be delivered in Dayton,” said Mark Shaker, vice president of service integration for Premier Health.
Kettering Health most recently opened July 1 a call center for cancer services, with a 1-800 hotline for patients to call, arrange doctor appointments and tests, and connect to support services. Patients, family and friends dealing with a cancer diagnosis now have one number to call to be connected to oncologists, social workers, dieticians, financial guidance and support groups, said Ken Chaij, network oncology director.
Kettering Health also is in the process of better organizing cancer services across its eight hospitals to improve access and quality. The program is now named Kettering Cancer Care.
Groups of surgeons, doctors and support nurses from throughout the system meet on a regular basis to review cancer patient cases. More doctor offices for cancer care are opening in different locations, including one this year at Soin Medical Center.
“I think starting last year, we as an organization focused on cancer as one of three service lines that we know are going to experience growth now going in the future. Those are cardiac, ortho and cancer, again because of the aging of the population,” Chaij said.
Plans are still on the table to build a comprehensive cancer building at the Kettering Medical Center campus on Southern Boulevard, Chaij said.
“Our idea is a hub and spokes idea, if you will, where you could be at Fort Hamilton, or at Soin, Sycamore, doesn’t matter, and be able to get in our network, start receiving treatment, and if something comes up where you need a top-of-the line stereotactic body radiosurgery, then we would send you to the mothership, if you will, the comprehensive cancer center,” he said.
Plans were first announced in 2011 to build the cancer center and physician offices. Though delayed, Chaij says Kettering is still doing the project. However, there are no new details on a timetable.
Meanwhile, Premier Health’s strategy has been to open a series of outpatient cancer centers with advanced service offerings at community sites.
The sixth one opens Monday in Greenville, in Darke County, in partnership with Wayne HealthCare and Dayton Physicians Network.
The new Wayne Cancer Center follows the opening of the $20 million comprehensive cancer center Premier Health and Dayton Physicians opened earlier in 2013 at Miami Valley Hospital South in Centerville.
The outpatient cancer centers offer radiation, chemotherapy, doctor appointments, and other services.
Other centers are located at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, Upper Valley Medical Center in Miami County, Good Samaritan North in Englewood, and Greater Dayton Cancer Center in Kettering.
“The strategy and the way that cancer care now is being delivered even across the country is that because patients have multiple treatments, whether its chemotherapy or radiation oncology, or surgery and surgery follow up and so forth, we felt it was very important to try to get the services as close to the population as we can,” Shaker said.
Cancer is an important service line for the health systems because it affects so many people. And most cancer care is delivered on an outpatient, or same-day basis.
Outpatient services are a growing source of business for health providers, as inpatient volumes decline and the industry is pushed to reduce hospital admissions, which are more costly.
“A lot of cancer care is delivered now on an outpatient kind of basis, so I wouldn’t tell you that it’s one of our top five from an inpatient point of view. But when you look at the number of patients who enter our system, see our physicians, have our home care company attend to them at home, and come to our outpatient cancer treatment centers, it starts to really add up,” Shaker said.
There hasn’t been this much competition on cancer care, at least publicly, since Kettering Health and Premier Health announced within days of each other in 2010 similar plans to open centers for the new radiation technology proton beam therapy.
No visible progress has been made on bringing proton therapy to Dayton to date, although Kettering officials say they’re still evaluating plans. Premier was slated to partner with California company Optivus Proton Therapy Inc. to built a proton therapy center, but those plans were put on hold in 2011 with no new updates.
“It’s a very competitive environment… and I think everybody’s out trying to garner that share of the market and making sure their services are available to those communities,” Shaker said.