December 18, 2013 10:00:40 AM
PASCAGOULA -- Singing River Health System's Regional Center has joined the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System Cancer Community Network.
The move, officials say, will bring south Mississippi improved cancer care with lower costs.
The Mississippi Press reports Singing River is one of 10 associates in the network and the only one in Mississippi.
Dr. Edward Partridge, director of UAB's Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Singing River Hospital Chief Operating Officer Lynn Truelove made the announcement this week.
"We are a research intensive program. We are on the cutting edge of cancer care in that we are developing the new therapies that may not be available in two years but, as part of the network, will be available to you on a much quicker basis. Your patients won't have to travel to Birmingham to get the latest treatments available," Partridge said.
UAB is a National Cancer institute-designated cancer center, one of only 41 in the country. It has 350 cancer scientist and clinicians, members of the network will have access to that latest technology and treatments
As part of the network, Singing River will be participants in Patient Care Connect, a three-year program aimed at offering a new cancer care model that reduces costs.
The UAB program emphasizes collaboration between UAB and community cancer centers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and now Mississippi.
UAB received a $15 million grant in 2012 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the program that has lay navigators, or coaches, guide patients through every step in the cancer care process.
Partridge said the goal is to reduce the cost of cancer care by as much as $50 million at the 11 network associates over the three-year period.
"The way we're lowering cost, we believe, is with the navigators we can reduce the number of unnecessary emergency room visits," Partridge said. "The navigators will be communicating with the patient so if they are having symptoms or problems they don't ignore it for 3-4 days and end up in the emergency room. We estimate about a 10 percent reduction in ER visits, which is cost savings."
Truelove said Singing River's Cancer Center sees about 400 new patients a year, uses two navigators.
He said joining the network will allow Singing River to focus more on helping cancer patients make the most appropriate choices for their treatment while the hospital maximizes the use of effective therapies and health care resources.
Partridge said the program also includes earlier admission to hospice for patients who have failed therapy. He said the patients will get a higher quality of care and management of symptoms at less cost.