As a healthcare executive you may not conduct research or administer medications, but you can still play an important role in helping improve treatment for lymphoma as well as other blood cancers. Here are five areas in which you can make an impact.
1. Broaden your knowledge to make more-informed decisions
The more knowledgeable you are about emerging lymphoma treatment options, the better prepared you’ll be to take appropriate action. Whether that means responding to physician suggestions or seeking financial support for new programs or services, a strong knowledge base about lymphoma will be an asset.
For example, administrators will want to watch developments such as the FDA’s recent approval for the use of brentuximab vedotin in combination with chemotherapy to treat patients who have been newly diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin lymphoma.
The same is true for emerging CAR T-cell immunotherapies that are now approved for certain patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
2. Provide patients with access to prompt treatment
A key to improving lymphoma treatment is to have processes and procedures in place to begin treatment as promptly as possible, according to Chandler Park, MD, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Kentucky in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Try to treat as many of these patients as you can at the beginning,” he says. “It starts with a fast diagnosis to treatment time.”
Park says if a patient has suspicious lymph nodes on a chest or abdominal CT scan in the ER, it’s important that the patient is scheduled to see a hematologist/oncologist right away before hospital discharge.
3. Use resources to ensure effective treatment
Using testing to develop specific treatment plans is essential in increasing odds for successful treatment.
“It’s critically important for healthcare executives to ensure that clinicians in their organizations are testing for a patient’s subtype of lymphoma,” says Gwen Nichols, MD, chief medical officer of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She points out that recent breakthroughs in targeted therapies mean that healthcare teams have more effective treatments at their disposal—but what works in one subtype of lymphoma might not work in another. That’s why it’s much more critical to get the diagnosis correct at the onset, in order to direct resources and treatment efficiently.
“Unlike a decade ago, there are specific markers which indicate the likelihood of benefit from particular therapies,” Nichols says. “Second opinions and pathologic review by pathologists who are experts in the subdiagnosis of lymphoma can make a dramatic difference in outcomes. Starting the wrong treatment is costly for payers and patients.”
4. Bolster patient education services
Providing adequate education for patients and their families is a must, Park says.
“Once a lymphoma diagnosis is made it’s vital for the healthcare team to have an effective nurse clinician on their team to educate lymphoma patients on potential side effects of chemo and how to manage these at home.”
Lack of a dedicated educator leads to problems such as unnecessary visits to the emergency room for routine side effects from chemotherapy, according to Park.
“An excellent patient education would save many thousands of dollars on follow up treatments and treatment related toxicities,” he says.
5. Support clinical trials
Nichols encourages healthcare executives to promote clinical trials as an appropriate treatment option for patients with lymphoma.
“The breakthroughs available to us today were made possible by patients participating in clinical trials,” she says. “It’s a way for patients to access advanced medical treatment that might be more beneficial for them than standard treatment.”
She adds that her organization offers a clinical trial support center, staffed with registered nurses who have expertise in the blood cancers, to help patients navigate the entire clinical trial process.