From the November 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
HCB News: How did you go about starting your lung cancer screening program?
We got all of the stakeholders at the table and explained why it is important to offer screening. In 2015, we brought together caregivers and administrators from Henry Ford Allegiance Health, a medium-sized community hospital in Jackson County, to form our lung cancer screening program, including finding space for the clinic and securing dedicated time to use the CT equipment. I met with my radiology group partners and proposed scheduling one morning a week, from 7 a.m. to noon, for lung cancer screening patients. And I asked our hospital administrators for the same dedicated time slot to use the LDCT scanner for the clinic. When they looked at the NLST trial data and our demographics, our administrators quickly recognized it was the right thing to do for our patients.
HCB News: How does the clinic work? What is the process when a patient comes in for lung cancer screening?
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Each week, we offer a clinical day for lung cancer screening patients. When a patient comes in to the clinic, a trained technologist conducts the scan. While I am reading the scan, the patient goes to see a tobacco cessation counselor who is part of the team. A few minutes later, the patient joins me and a nurse navigator in the reading room, where I review the images with the patient, describe the findings, and answer any questions. Depending on the results of the scan, the nurse navigator schedules follow-up appointments — including the next annual screening for patients who are negative for lung cancer, a consultation with a pulmonologist or thoracic surgeon, or a PET/CT appointment for additional imaging. Our nurse navigator also communicates the findings and follow-ups with the patient’s referring clinician. And we also track and remind patients of their future appointments to ensure they are getting the care they need.
HCB News: How do patients typically respond to seeing their exams and talking with you?
Our patients love it. Nowadays, patients are often seen by nurse practitioners and physician assistants rather than doctors. While they are excellent caregivers, they may not be well trained to discuss lung cancer screening and its impact. What’s more, patients seem to understand the findings and take them more seriously when we show them a suspicious spot in their lung, rather than reading about it from a report. The picture immediately hits home. Also, we talk about smoking and what their lungs look like after a long time of smoking. The idea is to encourage patients to take the conversation from my reading room to their living room, dining room, and social gatherings to spread the message that lung cancer screening really is helpful. Flyers, billboards, and TV ads might have very short memory life. But if you show patients a picture of their own lungs, it leaves a lasting impression.