Around-the-Clock Cancer Care Reduces Emergency Room Use

November 1, 2018

How Froedtert Hospital achieves success with a 24/7/365 cancer clinic.

Cancer patients at Milwaukee-based Froedtert Hospital don’t arrive at the emergency department when they experience treatment-related symptoms such as dehydration or nausea. Instead, they visit the health system’s 24/7/365 cancer clinic that caters specifically to their needs.

Opened in November 2016, the 800-square foot 24/7/365 cancer clinic has space to treat four patients at a time, says Tina Curtis, DNP, executive director of cancer services. Located adjacent to the hospital’s inpatient oncology unit, the clinic takes up the space of two patient rooms and leverages the oncology providers who are already staffing the oncology unit.

Curtis had the benefit of good timing, since the health system was adding inpatient capacity on campus-that meant she could secure the two patient rooms for the cancer clinic.

Featuring a couple of infusion chairs, some hospital beds, and a bathroom, the space allows patients to lie down or sit in a chair-and clinicians can create a level of privacy for patients by pulling a curtain across the area where the patient is located, says Curtis. Patients also have the option of socializing with other patients and clinicians during their treatment.

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Before they arrive at the 24/7/365 cancer clinic, patients call the after-hours nurse line and leave a message with the answering service. Patients receive a call back from an oncology nurse who will troubleshoot with the patient if the emergency room or the 24/7/365 cancer clinic is the most appropriate care setting.

In the future, Curtis would like to enable patients to simply arrive at the around-the-clock cancer clinic-without the need for a triage call before their arrival.

Financial support comes from the hospital, which hasn’t engaged with payers to seek reimbursement for care provided in the cancer clinic.

Still, Curtis believes payers should be interested in supporting providers in creating this type of cancer clinic. “It’s really about the challenge of getting the right patient to the right place at the right time, and being a good financial steward. We have an amazing [emergency room], also some great clinicians who take excellent care of patients. This is more a question of using resources, space, and personnel wisely,” she says.

In the first year that the cancer clinic treated patients, Froedtert experienced a 25% reduction in emergency room admissions by oncology patients. Curtis’ team won an Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) Innovator Award for their work implementing an around-the-clock cancer clinic.

Aine Cryts is a writer based in Boston.