By: Cindy Miller, RN, CN-BN, Breast Program Coordinator, Tri-Cities Cancer Center
This is an exciting time to be talking about breast health in our community. A little over two years ago, the Tri-Cities Cancer Center partnered with Lourdes Health Network to pilot a Breast Oncology Program with the intent of achieving accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) as a Breast Center of Excellence.
Our program is no longer in pilot and includes over twenty area physicians from the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, Kadlec Regional Medical Center, Lourdes Health Network, and Trios Health (including ancillary staff from all organizations), each specializing in breast cancer. Appropriate patients enrolled in this program will have their case reviewed in a group setting by these board-certified providers. This group setting is referred to as a multidisciplinary conference, which includes: Breast Surgeons, Radiologists, Pathologists, Radiation Oncologists, Medical Oncologists, a Plastic Reconstructive Surgeon, Nurse Navigators, a Genetic Counselor, Clinical Research Coordinators & Psychosocial Support Professionals.
The goals of the program are to shorten time to treatment and improve outcomes for patients. This is achieved as the different specialists previously mentioned give their professional opinion regarding the best course of treatment for the patient being presented. The value to patients is that physician specialists from four different organizations are providing input for their treatment and care. It is the equivalent of getting multiple second opinions without having to leave the community. To achieve national accreditation as a Breast Center of Excellence, our program must operate at the 75th percentile (top 25%) of participating cancer treatment facilities in the country and provide the following:
- A multidisciplinary, team approach to coordinate the best care and treatment options available
- Access to breast cancer-related information, education, and support
- Breast cancer data collection on quality indicators for all subspecialties involved in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment
- Ongoing monitoring and improvement of care
- Information about clinical trials and new treatment options
According to NAPBC, “Accreditation by the NAPBC is granted only to those centers that are voluntarily committed to providing the best possible care to patients with diseases of the breast. Each breast center must undergo a rigorous evaluation and review of its performance and compliance with NAPBC standards. To maintain accreditation, centers must monitor compliance with NAPBC standards to ensure quality care, and undergo an on-site review every three years.”
Full accreditation takes a minimum of three years to complete. It is an arduous process that is well worth the effort. To date, through the hard work of our participating physicians and ancillary staff, we have reduced the time from screening to treatment by 30%. This is exciting news, but there is more work to be done as we continually endeavor to improve care coordination between physician specialists for the benefit of our patients. We have a great team of physician leaders providing exceptional care for breast patients entered into our Breast Oncology Program. Our pursuit of accreditation as a Breast Center of Excellence is providing the tools to create a truly integrated system of care.