By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
The ramifications of having one of the nation’s most recognized cancer care programs at its disposal are many for Alton Memorial Hospital, says President Dave Braasch.
Last month’s announcement that the hospital would become the first Illinois affiliate of the Siteman Cancer Network means Washington University physicians at Alton Memorial and at the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis are able to provide cancer care to patients as close to home as possible.
“This partnership is a great day for residents of the River Bend region and our patients as we come together to make access to nationally recognized cancer care more convenient,” Braasch said.
Through the network, the hospital will work to improve the health of the region through cancer prevention efforts and resources such as cancer screenings and earlier detection.
The affiliation means the two entities will be able to: share best practices; employ genomic and genetic testing through WashU to identify cancer causes and then promote more targeted treatments; develop a database aimed at improving care and outcomes; evaluate emerging technology and develop programs to advance patient care; and collaborate on quality assessment to identify areas of improvement. Patient navigators will be on hand to coordinate access to highly specialized care.
River Bend area patients will have access to specialized care at the Siteman center in St. Louis for such things as bone marrow transplants, proton therapy and clinical trials.
Doctors and patients alike expressed elation over the announcement, which was rolled out during a celebratory press conference.
Dr. Tim Eberlein, director of the Siteman Cancer Center and chairman of surgery at the School of Medicine at WashU, praised the new relationship.
“You can access some of the best, world-class care,” Eberlein said. “If you have to have cancer, that’s the way to get your treatment.”
Alton Memorial has been a member of the BJC Health System since 1993 and has partnered with BJC and WashU as well as independent physicians. The new affiliation strengthens the entire process, said Dr. Greg Vlacich, Alton Memorial’s head of radiation therapy and an assistant professor of radiation oncology at WashU School.
“Siteman will work with us in a more formalized manner to expedite and schedule appointments for any care Siteman might provide in St. Louis, with the goal of getting patients back to Alton Memorial as soon as possible,” Vlacich said.
Braasch said that, right now, there is already state-of-the-art equipment in radiation/oncology at Memorial, but this affiliation enhances its use.
Siteman doesn’t current offer clinical trials at network member hospitals, including Alton’s, but Alton’s patients will have access to more than 400 therapeutic clinical trials underway at Siteman.
In marketing the affiliation, the hospital expects to reach patients from many miles.
“We’ve done a lot of work around that, and we know where we can target our efforts,” Braasch told the Illinois Business Journal. “Across the community, further north, east and south. We’re expecting there is going to be a lot more outreach, particularly in the prevention arena. That’s going to be one of the keys.”
The BJC/Siteman arrangement in Alton has been in the works for at least the last two years.
Alton Memorial is the third hospital to join the Siteman network and the first network member in Illinois. The other two in the network are Phelps Health/Delbert Day Cancer Institute in Rolla, Mo., and Boone Hospital Center in Columbia, Mo.
Unrelated to the Alton affiliation, a new Siteman Center location is being built next to the Memorial East Hospital campus in Shiloh, which will mark a major step-up of Siteman’s presence in Southern Illinois when it is completed in 2020.
Network membership provides more direct access to cancer prevention and control strategies and genomic and genetic testing. Patients also will have streamlined access to highly specialized treatments and technologies, including clinical trials, at Siteman.
As a network member, Alton Memorial Hospital will work with Siteman Cancer Center to assess cancer’s impact on west central Illinois and develop a plan to lessen the overall burden and measure results. Possibilities include a greater emphasis on reducing smoking rates and promoting cancer screening and other healthy activities.
Cancer prevention strategies will include use of interactive tools, e-books, videos, individual coaching and online cancer risk assessment tools.
Alton Memorial Hospital was established in 1937. Licensed for 199 beds, it is an acute-care hospital offering patients a variety of inpatient and outpatient services, including surgery services, medical imaging, interventional and diagnostic heart services, physical therapy, rehabilitation, 24-hour emergency care, ambulance services, cancer care, and women’s health and family birth center.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH