American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer Cites Maximum Commendations
It took months of meticulous informational organization and presentation but, the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital received a full three year accreditation with commendation by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. “It took some effort,” says Phil Okala, vice president, Service Line Integration, Penn Medicine Cancer Services. “This validates what we have always known. The quality of our care is very good.” The accreditation process was led by a team including Mary Pat Lynch, CRNP, MSN, AOCN, Cancer Program administrator; Donna McNally, director, UPHS Tumor Registry; Arthur Staddon, MD, medical director, JKCC; Dahlia Sataloff, MD, cancer liaison physician; and Marylou Osterman, Cancer Program coordinator.
Measuring High-Quality Care
The Commission on Cancer accreditation is nationally recognized by the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and other prestigious organizations as having established performance measures for high-quality cancer care through a number of programs that focus on prevention, early diagnosis, pretreatment evaluation, staging, optimal treatment, rehabilitation, surveillance for recurrent disease, support services, and end-of-life care. Hospitals voluntarily submit themselves to this scrutiny.
“Not all cancer centers have this accreditation and they aren’t required to have it,” says Okala. “But we thought that for what we do and the quality of care we strive to provide, we belong with these organizations that are holding themselves to a certain standard.”
Unlike other accreditations, the Commission on Cancer accreditation applies to an entire cancer center and focuses on eight specific areas:
- Cancer Committee Leadership
- Cancer Data Management and Cancer Registry Operations
- Clinical Management
- Community Outreach
- Institutional and Programmatic Resources
- Professional Education and Staff Support
- Quality Improvement
An “Advanced” Cancer Center
The JKCC received commendations in all eight standards in which commendation was possible – quite an unusual feat for a program being reviewed for the first time. The Center is also being considered for the coveted Outstanding Program Award, which is given to centers that have extensive, successful programs. “When the surveyor came out to review our data and assess our center he told us that he rarely has this problem. In our case, he said there was nothing to improve on. He said we are so far advanced that we could even surpass the new criteria that will be required in 2012,” said Dr. Staddon.
Shown here from left to right are: R. Michael Buckley, MD, executive director, PAH; Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD; director, ACC; and Arthur Staddon, MD, director, JKCC.
“It shows that our center is really serious about making sure that we’re providing the best possible care,” said Dr. Sataloff, who, in addition to being the cancer liaison physician at PAH for the American College of Surgeons, also directs the Integrated Breast Center at PAH. “It also allows us to track our programs and continue to improve going forward.”
In fact, this ability to draw comparisons to other accredited cancer centers can be a key benefit.
“We have very strong programs, but being part of the Commission on Cancer consortium invites us to adhere to an extended set of guidelines,” says Okala. “No matter how good we are, we want to know how we stack up against our peers. In this way, they can learn from us and we can learn from them. We believe that collective give-and-take is the right way to approach cancer care going into the future.”
An “Outstanding” Support Program
The future of cancer care, as many facilities have recently realized, also includes taking into consideration a patient’s overall health status as well as emotional and psychological well-being. Physicians and staff at the JKCC recognized the importance of this aspect of care many years ago and, as a result, have an extensive support program that includes three oncology-specific social workers, two oncology-specific nutritionists, two oncology-trained psychologists, an art therapist, music therapist, massage therapist, and a palliative care nurse practitioner. The breadth of this program was, in particular, noted by the American College of Surgeons surveyor who reported, “Very extensive and innovative services at this facility. There is dedicated space for support group meetings, art therapy, psychosocial support, etc. In a word, outstanding!”
The surveyor was also extremely impressed with the Joan Karnell Cancer Center’s breast cancer tumor board, which meets weekly as a team to review patient cases and treatments. “He told me he wished he had videotaped our breast cancer tumor board so it could be a model for the country,” says Dr. Staddon. “We have had a team approach to caring for all our cancer patients for a long time but what this accreditation shows is that we’re among the very best.”