Prepare for the Cancer Boom

Elyas Bakhtiari, for HealthLeaders Magazine , July 10, 2009
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Decatur Memorial Hospital is in the process of moving operations into a 55,000-square-foot comprehensive center that houses medical oncology, radiation, cancer research, diagnostic services, labs, and nuclear medicine. However, instead of starting the project as a joint venture with physicians, or building the facility and inviting physicians in, Decatur and Cancer Care Specialists of Central Illinois, SC, the 15-physician medical group that partnered with Decatur, approached the project a little differently: The physician group owns the building and it is the hospital that is the tenant.

"This is kind of 180 degrees from a conventional setup," says Ridley. "When we started talking to the doctors about this they showed interest in wanting to have ownership in the building and we said if that's what you want to do, we'll certainly switch seats with you and be the tenant."

Although the setup process has been a little different to ensure that the program fits within all legal and financial restrictions, the ultimate goal was to move toward cohabitation and keep the physicians happy.

"If you have an oncology practice where you're geographically fragmented—with a piece of it at hospital and a piece down the street—you can understand that it makes it tough to do business sometime," Ridley says.

"[Cohabitating] has a huge impact on making patients' lives easier. They're going to go to one building to see all the doctors they see and all the support staff that comes with that. The physicians can have face time together, they can just walk down hall and have a face-to-face interaction rather than calling."

On top of the full array of Decatur's cancer services, the center also houses a complementary medicine program—services like massage therapy, music therapy, art therapy, nutritional counseling, and yoga.

"Anything built in last five years or is likely to have some complementary program," says Ridley. "Our goal overall is not only to be a therapeutic place where people come for chemotherapy and radiation, but we wanted to be a community center and resource center . . . We want to lead not only in delivering care and science-based medicine, but being that one-stop shop where people can come in and get professional advice and also the high-touch piece of it."

Elyas Bakhtiari is a senior editor for physicians and service lines for HealthLeaders Media. He can be reached at

Pill problems

For patients who have suffered through radiation treatments or chemotherapy infusions, oral chemotherapeutic drugs—often called cancer pills—may seem like a dream come true. It may even seem less daunting to pick up a cancer treatment at a pharmacy and take it at home on a regular basis like any other drug. Although the chemotherapeutic pills are complementary to, rather than a replacement for, traditional treatments, they are growing in popularity and may reshape cancer treatment as they continue to evolve. But for now, it's not so easy as just popping a pill.

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