Continuum of Care

New cancer center opens its doors to a growing volume of patients.

If you do something well, it makes sense to do it on a larger, more comprehensive scale. Such was the thinking of University of Kansas Hospital administrators when the hospital opened its outpatient Cancer Center and Medical Pavilion last August and its Breast Cancer Survivorship Center in November. “Our mission was to serve a growing number of cancer patients in the best environment and add space for clinical research,” says Jeff Wright, executive director of cancer services. “In the last year [alone], our overall volume of cancer patients grew by 12 percent.” Indeed, even after doubling the cancer treatment space at the main campus, the facility could not keep pace with its growing cancer patient base. Today, the Cancer Center and Medical Pavilion is the area’s largest outpatient cancer treatment facility and offers one of the most comprehensive programs in the country, he adds.

The 55,000-square-foot center – located in Westwood, Kan., about 1 ½ miles from the main campus – was constructed with enough space to accommodate another treatment area, and the hospital administration and providers elected to add the Breast Cancer Survivorship Center. “Yes, there are [other forms] of cancer besides breast cancer, but I have learned that when you try to [specialize in] every aspect of cancer, you fall short,” says Jennifer Klemp, Ph.D., managing director of the 1,300-square-foot Breast Cancer Survivorship Center. “So, we focused on what we do very well. We have an excellent breast cancer program and hope to move forward to serve [other] types of cancer survivors in the future.

“The Breast Cancer Survivorship Center enables us to bring patients to a point where, if they do have a reoccurrence, they are stronger and farther along,” she continues. “Their cancer is identified much sooner here than it would be in a community setting.” To date, about 450 patients have visited the center.

Architectural input
The cancer center is housed in a former Sprint World Headquarters building, which was selected for its proximity to the main hospital campus, its suburban setting and the convenient parking it offers for severely ill patients. The building, purchased in July 2005, was stripped to its bare walls and redesigned according to architectural input, as well as ideas provided by physicians, nurses and patients. “The architects actually sat in on patient focus groups,” says Wright. “[They learned] what patients did or did not like about the old treatment center (at the hospital). Then, our pharmacists, radiologists, nurses [and other caregivers] participated in planning sessions, and their ideas were incorporated into the final design of the center.” An interior designer provided the fine touches, such as the center’s calming natural light, he adds.

The cost of the project was $37 million, which was funded primarily through bonds. The final result has been well-worth the expense, notes Wright. “Cancer patients want to come to an academic medical center, and now we have the capacity to serve them,” he says. “Basically, the new facility allows us to offer a continuum of cancer care under one roof. Also, we have newer technology and access to clinical experts.”

From cancer prevention and screening, to diagnosis and treatment, the center offers a range of services, including:

  • Radiology (CT, nuclear medicine)
  • Breast imaging
  • Breast cancer prevention
  • Breast cancer survivorship.

In addition, the center offers clinical research programs that focus on such areas as:

  • Physical and psychosocial effects of treatment on cancer patients
  • Cardiac implications of long-term chemotherapy
  • Diet and exercise for cancer patients in remission
  • Genetic counseling and testing on fertility preservation
  • Endocrine imbalance and menopausal symptom management.

The larger space has also enabled them to expand their blood and marrow program, says Wright. Doctors on staff performed 91 marrow transplants in 2007, compared to 46 the year before, he says.

“We see about 275 patients each day,” says Wright. “They can walk in the door for a mammogram, and move on to screenings, sonograms and diagnostic services, all the way to treatment. The continuity and timeliness of care helps reduce their anxiety.”

About the Author

Laura Thill
Laura Thill is a contributing editor for The Journal of Healthcare Contracting.