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Major Remake Pays Off for the Cancer Program at Washington Hospital Center

Major Remake Pays Off for the Cancer Program at Washington Hospital Center

PHILADELPHIA--The strategy of the Washington Hospital Center (WHC) cancer program for surviving managed care has been to enthusiastically embrace change, said Kenneth Samet, president of WHC, at the annual meeting of the Association of Cancer Executives (ACE).

Before 1990, the program was diffuse, with services scattered throughout the facility. Technology was outdated, and the program focused on inpatient services. It lacked a strong community image and had minimal market share.

That changed with the development of the first strategic plan that made the cancer care program a "center of excellence," not just on paper but with a capital investment of $18 million for a 60,000 square foot facility and equipment.

Other changes included the recruitment of "magnet" physicians in targeted service lines, establishment of an integrated home care program, major public affairs and marketing initiatives, including aggressive pursuit of managed care and carve-out contracts, and expansion of clinical research.

In April, 1992, the program opened with a new facility and a new name, the Washington Cancer Institute at the WHC. It now features a multidiscipli-nary, integrated approach to comprehensive cancer care, whereby patients can receive all necessary treatment, consultations, and support services at one site.

To help it survive as a tertiary site, WHC's cancer program has become the hub for OncoPlex, a regional network of medical oncologists, hospitals, and radiation centers stretching into neighboring Maryland and Northern Virginia. The sites are closely linked, Mr. Samet said. "You can't have multiple sites if they feel like multiple sites to the patient."

The results of the WHC cancer program efforts have been dramatic, he noted. Inpatient discharges have held fairly steady for the past decade while, at other hospitals, oncology inpatient admissions have dropped by an average of 30% over the past 5 years as more care has shifted to the outpatient and home care settings. Outpatient registrations at WHC have gone from 16,800 in 1986, to 28,716 in 1994 and 34,501 in 1996 (projected).

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