Providing Access to Coordinated Care, Technology and Services in Northeast and Central Wisconsin
February 19, 2021
APPLETON, Wis. – February 2021 marks five years of caring for patients at the ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center (RCC). The building, which provides a home base for the ThedaCare Cancer Care program, opened in 2016 on the Encircle Health Campus.
In those five years, the Cancer Care team has been committed to providing patient-centered and coordinated care – from the diagnosis of cancer, through treatment and into survivorship. The highlights include expansion of services, bringing new technology to the area, recruiting the best caregivers, securing grants for clinical trials and research and achieving multiple certifications, accreditations and awards. Donna Boehm, Director of ThedaCare Cancer Care Services, explained while the milestone marks the opening of building, the people working in the physical space make the experience special for patients.
“The team members have exceptional knowledge and skill, and they are passionate about the work they do,” she said. “The selfless dedication, engagement and compassion they bring to work every day is inspiring. They consistently find ways to care for their patients beyond just ‘cancer care’ and personalize it to the individual, getting to know every patient in order to provide care that matches the needs of that person.”
According to Boehm, ThedaCare cares for 10,000 patients a year at the Regional Cancer Center. Teams have also provided care for nearly 8,500 patients with a new cancer diagnosis in the past five years. In addition to the RCC, there are outreach clinics that continue coordinated care for patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. Patients have the opportunity to receive care in Berlin, Neenah, New London, Oshkosh, Shawano and Waupaca.
“I’m incredibly proud every time I see our team members go above and beyond to improve care for our patients,” said Boehm. “They are regularly pushing the envelope to improve the experience for those we serve.”
After treatment, many are faced with ‘finding a new normal’ and adjusting to life after a diagnosis with a new perspective. The ThedaCare Cancer Care Survivorship Programming provides a network of support as patients move through their own post-diagnosis journey. It provides patients opportunities to connect with individuals walking in their shoes, education around ideas such as managing side-effects, healthy eating, exercise and emotional and spiritual support. The program focuses on celebrating patients and families along the way, with many milestones, be it a clear scan, the end of a cycle of treatment or a final dose of chemotherapy. ThedaCare follows nearly 9,600 survivors at this time.
“One of my proudest moments was on June 4, 2019,” explained Boehm. “The day marked the one year anniversary of the unification of teams from ThedaCare and Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology that strengthened the ThedaCare mission of improving the health of the communities we serve. We had several events that day, sponsored by donations to the ThedaCare Family of Foundations, celebrating our cancer survivors and those who care for them. We relocated the survivorship bell to the Regional Cancer Center. The ringing of the survivorship bell is a ritual for many patients on their last day of treatment. When a patient prepares to ring the bell, we ask team members to join in the celebration outside to witness the special moment. We have several of these every day, and I get teary-eyed every single time.”
Plans are now being developed for a Breast Cancer Survivorship Clinic at Encircle Health.
Research and Clinical Trials
In September 2019, the National Cancer Institute awarded the Wisconsin National Community Oncology Research Program (WiNCORP), a Wisconsin cancer clinical trial network, with nearly $15.6 million over the next six years to advance treatment options and research for those living with cancer.
WiNCORP is a partnership between Gundersen Health System, Marshfield Clinic Health System and ThedaCare that provides innovative cancer clinical trials to patients in Wisconsin. This partnership builds upon the collaborative relationship these three health systems have to improve access to cancer clinical trials for more patients. ThedaCare joined WiNCORP in 2019.
“Patients from across the state, including Northeast and Central Wisconsin, will be provided greater access to cancer care clinical trials,” explained Natasha Edwin, MD, a hematologist and oncologist at the Regional Cancer Center, and Cancer Care Research Medical Director. “The opportunity to partner with other advanced health care systems allows teams to accelerate scientific progress and achieve better outcomes.”
“At this time, there are close to 50 Clinical Trials open to patients in our care,” said Boehm. “We are now focused on expanding research to all of our locations over the course of this coming year.”
Patients who wish to participate in clinical trials should speak with their ThedaCare cancer care provider to receive more information.
Accredited for Quality Cancer Care
In August of 2019, the Commission on Cancer (CoC), a quality program of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), granted three-year accreditation to the cancer program at ThedaCare. To earn voluntary CoC accreditation, a cancer program must meet 34 CoC quality care standards, be evaluated every three years through a survey process, and maintain levels of excellence in the delivery of comprehensive patient-centered care.
“Patients and their families can be confident in knowing they have access to world-class, highly-specialized cancer care experts and advanced technology right here in our community,” said Boehm. “We are proud of the work we do every day to ensure we are meeting the highest quality standards in cancer care.”
Because it is a CoC-accredited cancer center, ThedaCare takes a multidisciplinary approach to treating cancer as a complex group of diseases that requires consultation among surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, diagnostic radiologists, pathologists, and other cancer specialists. This multidisciplinary partnership aims to improve patient care.
“ThedaCare has state-of-the-art equipment and physicians who are highly experienced, offering the best care possible,” said Boehm. “There is a high level of commitment here at ThedaCare. We are fortunate that we have such a great program in Northeast and Central Wisconsin.”
Like all CoC-accredited facilities, ThedaCare maintains a cancer registry and contributes data to the National Cancer Data Base (NCDB), a joint program of the CoC and American Cancer Society. This nationwide oncology outcomes database is the largest clinical disease registry in the world. Data on all types of cancer are tracked and analyzed through the NCDB and used to explore trends in cancer care. CoC-accredited cancer centers, in turn, have access to information derived from this type of data analysis, which is used to create national, regional, and state benchmark reports. These reports help CoC facilities with their quality improvement efforts.
In addition to the CoC accreditation, in October of 2019, National Accreditation of Breast Programs, a quality program of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), granted three-year accreditation to the Breast Program at ThedaCare.
Centers of Excellence
In November of 2019, ThedaCare Cancer Care officially launched work to develop and complete four new Tumor Site-Specific Centers of Excellence (CoE).
Along with ThedaCare Breast Cancer Center of Excellence that has been accredited by the National Accreditation of Breast Centers (NAPBC) for the past 10 years, other CoE work includes:
- Head and Neck
- GI Cancers
- Thoracic Cancers
- Hematologic Malignancies
“The goal of becoming a Center of Excellence is to streamline, standardize and expedite the diagnosis and treatment of all cancer patients in the region,” said Boehm. “The ThedaCare programs form a multidisciplinary group that includes medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgery, radiology, pathology, pulmonology and support services, with specialists located throughout the Fox Valley and the rural communities we serve. It demonstrates our commitment to providing the best cancer care services for individuals needing our care.”
Support from the Community
The development of the Regional Cancer Center was supported by the ThedaCare Family of Foundations, and its Connect capital campaign. Launched in 2015, the community generously stepped up to contribute nearly $7 million towards this impactful effort.
The need to provide local access to patients receiving treatment inspired many families previously touched by a cancer diagnosis to support this endeavor. Donors to the campaign desired to support a mission to find better ways to offer holistic care and support for those with cancer, and their families.
“We hope our generous donors can see the benefit of their contributions five years later, because we do every single day,” said Courtney Weiland, CFRE, Vice President of Philanthropy & Executive Director of the ThedaCare Family of Foundations. “All of the services, technology and care that has grown from their gifts should make them feel incredibly proud. We are grateful for the impact their generosity created today, and for the future.”
Donations to the ThedaCare Family of Foundations continues to provide funding and support for many cancer care programs, including the survivorship program, research and clinical trials, and more.
After five years of seeing the positive impact of the RCC on the communities ThedaCare serves, Boehm is looking ahead to the next five years and beyond.“We are here for you and your family,” she said. “When you walk through our doors you will find a team of caregivers who will align with your goals and fight alongside you. Your care is what drives us every day and we will walk with you through your journey.”