Health

Monday, Dec 03 2012 06:01 PM

Cancer center proposal follows industry lead

BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

It may look novel, but the proposed cancer-care partnership announced Monday in Bakersfield fits easily into a set of well-established national health-care trends.

Hospitals and other medical "providers" across the country are working to do exactly what the local partners hope to accomplish: combine forces to offer comprehensive, convenient medical services.

"You don't have to look far ... into major metropolitan areas to see sort of a land grab on major service lines," said Christopher Collins, a Boston-based health-care consultant with ECG Management Consultants.

By "major service lines," he means cardiology, neuroscience, orthopedics and cancer care -- all potentially profitable areas of medicine that, if done right, can financially support emergency room and other health-care services that tend to lose money.

The key is to give patients options that suit their particular needs, stated Matt McGuire, senior vice president of operations at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Western Regional Medical Center in Goodyear, Ariz.

"By having access to a comprehensive medical team, larger variety of cutting edge technologies and individualized treatment plans, patients can choose what is best for their needs and are not limited by geographic location anymore," McGuire wrote in an email.

Success requires more than just opening a new facility, Collins said; it takes delivering medical outcomes that stand up in the face of competition.

"It's going from shiny new buildings and branding to, now, you need to back it up with quality. That's it," he said.

Collins and McGuire both dismissed the notion that Bakersfield -- with two existing cancer centers, one opening Sunday and another still under development -- may soon have too many cancer centers. If anything, they said, more options are better.

"Maybe a pediatric oncology patient will get what they need at (San Joaquin Community Hospital's) AIS Cancer Center, maybe at CBCC/Dignity (the partnership unveiled Monday), or maybe they'll need to travel to the other side of the country to get exactly what they need for their specific disease," McGuire wrote. "The point is, though, they will get to decide for themselves and be in control of their health and well-being."

As Collins explained it, cancer patients prefer, and are coming to expect, one-stop shopping rather than traveling from the radiation therapist to the oncologist to the infusion office.

"Patients are voting with their feet," he said.

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