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June 8, 2017 - Award-winning guidelines help MCI deliver personalized care
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When Martha Guimond’s ovarian cancer returned, she received a call from a nurse with whom she had bonded during her previous chemotherapy treatments at USA Mitchell Cancer Institute.

“We did an interview over the phone,” says Guimond, 66, of Semmes. “He wanted to get a feel of where I was and how they could help me.”

Registered nurse Troy Bland, who had just become a clinical care coordinator for MCI’s Medicare patients, covered a wide range of issues during the conversation, from emotional needs to pain and financial concerns. “A lot of people don’t touch on those things,” Guimond says. “He said if I have any problem, I should call him.”

Bland and fellow care coordinator Mary Wyatt follow a set of guidelines, called The Acuity Scale, to view patients holistically, which helps them assess and prioritize a patient’s individual needs. The innovative tool, designed by MCI Quality Manager Diane Baldwin, landed MCI one of nine Innovator Awards from the Association of Community Cancer Centers in 2017.

MCI is in good company. Among the other winners are Duke Cancer Institute, Penn Medicine Cancer Program and UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We are thrilled to be recognized by the ACCC as we strive to deliver comprehensive and personalized care to cancer patients in our region,” said MCI Director Dr. Michael A. Finan.  “We continue to look for new and better ways to be patient-centered.”

Between June 2016 and May 2017, MCI provided enhanced services to 565 Medicare patients as one of 195 centers participating in Medicare’s Oncology Care Model, which was created to improve effectiveness and efficiency in cancer care.  Medicare patients account for about 30 percent of MCI’s patient population.  

Under the Oncology Care Model, MCI added clinical care coordinators. Then, Baldwin recognized the need for a new tool to guide the coordinators when existing acuity scales couldn’t do the trick. She found that the established tools in the industry were either specific to certain facilities or too broad to provide an accurate snapshot of of individual patients.

With The Acuity Scale, coordinators review a number of factors ranging from stage and type of cancer to family support, and they assign an overall level number to the patient. Baldwin emphasizes that the level is merely a guideline and does not replace the clinical judgment of the coordinator.

“Our tool allows coordinators to quickly and easily view the numerous factors related to a patient’s disease, treatment, physical and psychosocial functioning,” she says.  “This helps coordinators to plan daily and weekly schedules, and ensure that the needs of all patients are met.”

At one time, Guimond visited MCI for chemotherapy every week. This past summer the retired registered nurse was down to once-a-month visits and was looking forward to gardening, visiting grandchildren and taking rides with her husband, Butch, on their 40-foot trawler boat.

Guimond was also considering joining GYN cancer support group --  a suggestion from Bland.

“From the time I pull into the parking lot at MCI, I never felt so much love and attention,” she says. “It’s so uplifting.”

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