A Beacon of Light on Your Cancer Care Journey

EASTERN CONNECTICUT HEMATOLOGY & ONCOLOGY ASSOCIATES

Taking Cancer Care to New Levels Of Excellence

Proud to be part of the Oncology Care Model: Report on Recent Progress

Cancer diagnoses comprise some of the most common and devastating diseases in the United States; more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year in this country.

In July 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a program called the Oncology Care Model (OCM) that is aimed at achieving higher-quality care, delivered at lower costs. Through OCM, the CMS Innovation Center can achieve three goals

in the care of this medically complex population: better care, smarter spending, and healthier people.

Participants in the OCM include 176 oncology practices throughout the United States and ECHO is privileged to be one of these practices.

Key Areas of Focus

The OCM encourages practices to address numerous patient-focused areas including:

  • Quality of care
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Care coordination

The OCM has also increased the focus on the patient and improved access to data that support care delivery and better care coordination.

Sharing Our Successes

In May of 2021, four members of ECHO were asked to present about some of the recent progress they have made in delivering on the core objectives of the OCM, especially during the last year with the COVID pandemic.

Below is a summary of key activities and processes that this panel discussed that deliver on the primary goals of the OCM – improving quality of care, patient satisfaction, and care coordination.

COVID Response

As healthcare providers, our #1 concern during COVID was protecting our patients. We did so by limiting in-person visits to those in active treatment. We also implemented remote visits right from the start to ensure no disruption of care. Once the situation stabilized, we gave patients the choice of how they preferred to receive care.

Distress Screening

ECHO has made significant advancement to evaluate emotional success. We begin the evaluation right from the start and have a detailed process in place to assess issues. Teaching plays an invaluable role, and ongoing screening is in place to ensure ongoing communication.

Some of the key components covered in teach visits include:

  • Side effects of chemotherapy
  • Symptom management at home
  • Physical therapy availability
  • Community help center

These visits address family needs and provide counseling for family members. Patients often bring family members to teach visits or conference them in.

Financial Distress Screening

At ECHO, our goal is to help patients who may struggle to bear the financial burden during treatment. This entails carefully assessing financial needs, searching for available funds, and utilizing our non-profit foundation to offset smaller expenses.

Below is how this process works:

  • Our team connects with the patient and obtains information such as the number of members in the household, expenses, and where social needs exist
  • The team keeps a running list of patients requiring financial assistance and resources currently being used.
  • Our team reviews foundation grants and funds at least 3 times a day.
  • We also use our foundation to cover small expenses such as transportation needs.

Depression/Isolation Screening and Follow-up

We place a strong emphasis on monitoring and managing the emotional state of our patients. During COVID, this was especially critical due to increased cases of depression, as well as social isolation. Our goal is to use a custom questionnaire to identify patients at risk and quickly initiate a response based on the severity of the case.

Process entails:

  • Using a questionnaire to determine the severity of the depression/isolation.
  • Responding to the depression/isolation based on severity.
  • If severe, aggressive measures are implemented.
  • If non-severe, treated less aggressively with social worker/physiatrist referral within a week.

Our staff is in constant contact with behavioral health experts who can expedite referrals. Patients who are severely depressed can typically be seen with 3 days to a week.

Food Insecurity

No patient battling cancer should endure the added burden of food insecurity. We established partnerships within the community to help address this issue.

Housing Instability

Patients need to be in a safe environment while undergoing treatment. Our team helps identify those at risk and takes steps necessary to improve their housing situations.

Focusing on the Totality of Our Patients’ Needs!

These are just a few of the many ways that we are supporting our patients during their time of need. It is not enough to treat just cancer, but it is important to be there for the whole patient – physically, emotionally, and logistically. Being part of the OCM has allowed us to continue to identify ways to enhance the lives of our patients and improve their overall care experience.