- Written by Devon Dams-O’Connor
As anyone who’s been through it knows, cancer treatment doesn’t end with the last round of chemo or radiation. The days and weeks that follow mark the beginning of a new chapter in patients’ survival stories. Ringing out of treatment often means ringing in a lot of questions, too. What now? How can I keep myself healthy? Will it come back?
General Physician PC’s Cancer Survivorship Program helps patients and their families navigate what comes next. Offered in partnership with the Great Lakes Cancer Care Collaborative, the program connects patients with a comprehensive network of providers who work together to create a personalized plan to address each patient’s physical, mental, social, and spiritual health following cancer.
“People feel lost at the end of their treatment,” explains Program Director and Physician Assistant Jennifer Wojcik. “They feel a little abandoned. It all feels very anticlimactic. They’ve had this adrenaline rush to get through treatments, appointments – and then there’s nothing. They don’t really know what’s next, and there’s a lot of uncertainty. They may have some lingering symptoms and side effects and they’re not sure where to go. There are so many questions about how to get back to their previous level of functioning. For some patients, the downtime following treatment is their first real opportunity to start processing all they’ve been through, and some feelings start coming up.”
The Cancer Survivorship Program starts by creating a survivorship care plan – a roadmap with resources for recovery. It includes detailed records of diagnoses, treatments received, and potential long-term effects. This becomes a valuable reference point for specialists, oncologists, and primary care providers to coordinate care and make sure that all the survivor’s health needs are met. The plan also includes a schedule of recommended screenings to watch for cancer spread, recurrence, or second cancers, and assessments to monitor medical and psychosocial effects that might pop up later.
The program offers a range of treatment options to help patients feel and function their best. Nutritionists who specialize in cancer recovery help survivors create a healthy diet to regain strength, reach weight goals, manage symptoms, and prevent recurrence. Rehab specialists focus on increasing strength and energy, managing pain, and improving functionality. Other specialists on the team may include cardiology, pulmonology, sexual health and fertility, and more, whose expertise includes an understanding of the specific issues patients may encounter after the cancer treatment process. Throughout the program, mental health plays a big part, too.
“Fear of recurrence is a big thing – ongoing anxiety, especially before their next CT scan or mammogram,” says Wojcik. “Some people feel like they have that constant cloud, especially right after treatment ends. They worry that every little ache or pain or symptom is the cancer coming back, and it gets in the way of enjoying life. We might recommend a support group, one-on-one counseling, medication, or just giving it some time.”
The length of participation in the program depends on each patient’s individual type of cancer and needs, and survivors can join at any time. Health insurance covers most aspects of the program.
“Survivorship starts with diagnosis and goes across the continuum,” says Wojcik. “There’s no one who cannot participate. We usually invite patients to join us once active treatment is done, or their oncologist will recommend us. We also work with people who have metastatic cancer who will continue treatment. You’re welcome to join at any time whether you finished treatment a month ago or five years ago.”
For more information about the Cancer Survivorship program, call (716) 884-3000 or visit the program page on our website.
- Written by Devon Dams-O’Connor
The idea of combining more doctors into one larger group might seem, at first, like one designed to move as many patients through a practice as possible. Instead, it’s part of a growing trend in healthcare delivery that places more emphasis on the quality of patient care rather than the quantity of care provided. By forming networks that include a variety of primary care and specialty physicians with shared resources and relationships, existing patients experience better care with better outcomes.
This collaborative care model is the basis of the recent partnership between General Physician PC and OB•GYN Associates of Western New York, who joined forces earlier this year to expand the variety of care resources available to patient of both groups. The partnership created what is now the most comprehensive women’s health service practice in the region.
Here are five of the most important ways women’s healthcare improves when more doctors work together.
1. Expanded access to experts
Many women only see an OB-GYN regularly and don’t have a primary care physician to address all of the other physical and mental aspects of health. But when obstetrics, gynecology, primary care and specialists in oncology, urology, surgery, and more are all part of the same team, the expanded continuum of care can address a larger variety of health concerns, quickly.
For example, the prevalence of heart disease in Western New York women—and the way in which the diseases affects women differently than men—makes it even more important to have cardiologists to support more OB-GYN physicians whose patients have heart disease, with direct access to the specialized resources at Gates Vascular Institute. The doctors at OB•GYN Associates of Western New York now have stronger ties to Oishei Children’s hospital, which specializes in neo-natal care and high-risk pregnancies.
2. Improved communication
When physicians are all part of the same group, they share a common infrastructure that can streamline day-to-day operations in ways that save a lot of time and frustration. Everyone is using the same electronic health record and communication platform, so there’s immediate access to medical and diagnostic testing information. Doctors can make better-informed decisions when they’re able to see what medications a patient is currently taking, notes from other specialists that might impact treatment plans, and whether or not a test has already been ordered by another physician. All of this avoids repeat visits and delays in care that sometimes happen as records are ferried back and forth between unrelated offices.
That shared communication platform also makes it a lot easier for patients to schedule appointments. Rather than handing a patient a business card or general referral for a specialist, OB-GYNs and primary care physicians can place a call to a colleague who can help, often before the patient leaves the office.
3. Reduced costs
Better communication within the same network of doctors also reduces medical costs for patients. There’s no need for services like imaging and labs to be repeated, meaning fewer fees and co-pays. This is especially important for patients with high-deductible health insurances plan who pay out of pocket for each test and office visit up to a certain amount (usually in the thousands of dollars).
There’s also an economy of scale that helps both General Physician, PC and OB•GYN Associates of Western New York keep costs lower for patients and their insurance companies, a consideration that’s especially important as the price of healthcare continues to rise.
Women tend to put the health of children, spouses, and parents ahead of their own—often to the detriment of their health. Partnerships like the one between General Physician, PC and OB•GYN Associates of WNY are designed to organize and deliver care in a way that allows women to be active participants in their own care. A big part of that is providing patients with choices about how to interact with their care team, such as offering early morning, evening, and Saturday office hours; electronic scheduling and pre-registration for appointments; and the option to use video for telehealth visits instead of coming in.
Together, this partnership serves a larger geographic area of Western New York rather than centering care around just the southtowns, the city, or the northtowns as many smaller practice groups do. By having locations in all of these areas, it means there’s more likely to be an office close to home or work rather than going out of the way to receive essential care. This is especially critical for women who need to be seen regularly throughout the course of a pregnancy or cancer treatment.
5. Better outcomes
When doctors can easily work together, their patients experience better health. If an OB-GYN detects an area of concern during a breast exam, for example, they’re already connected with the diagnostic imaging resources, and, if need be, oncologists who can take the next steps without missing a beat. Time is critical in so many health issues, where earlier detection and treatment can mean the difference between life and death.
It also means many issues can be addressed before they become emergencies. Recently, a maternal-fetal medicine specialists embedded in an OB•GYN Associates practice discovered a pregnancy where the baby had an issue with the brain. The partnership with General Physician, PC allowed them to make a phone call, have the mom meet the pediatric specialist that they’ll need to work with once the baby is born, and be able to do all that ahead of time rather than scramble on the day of delivery. It allows the patient to understand what’s going on, the prognosis, and what will need to happen in the days following the baby’s birth. Not only did that partnership and plan help alleviate mom’s fears during a really scary time, it also gave her baby the best possible chance at thriving.
- Written by Donna Manquen
General Physician, PC is pleased to announce a new partnership with Oishei Children’s Hospital that will offer wider access to patient services for high-risk pregnant women and their babies. Our second location of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center opened January 19, 2021, at 1020 Youngs Road in Williamsville.
Led by Dr. Paul Ogburn, the head of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Oishei Children’s Hospital and a professor at UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine, the Center will treat high-risk patients during their pregnancies, providing a level of specialized care that is rare both locally and across the nation. Maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialists, also called perinatologists, are board-certified obstetricians who have been specifically trained in diagnosing, treating, and managing high-risk pregnancies, providing specialty care for underlying medical concerns or past outcomes that could complicate pregnancy, from pre-conception through delivery. As specialists within the field of obstetrics, they conduct prenatal tests, provide treatments, and perform surgeries. They can act as a consultant during lower-risk pregnancies and as the primary obstetrician in especially high-risk pregnancies. After birth, they may work closely with pediatricians or neonatologists.
“The Northtowns Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center will increase the availability and convenience of expert care for women with complications or problems in their pregnancies,” says Dr. Ogburn. “This source of timely and quality perinatal care is an extension of the Regional Perinatal Center System of Western New York and maintains close coordination with the other members of this system, including Oishei Children’s Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, and all the hospitals and providers of obstetric care in western New York.”
Like the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center located at Oishei Children’s Hospital on the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus, the Northtowns location will be devoted to women expecting high-risk concerns associated with their pregnancies. This will include providing prenatal care for the mother and managing any existing health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure; supporting women who develop complications during pregnancy or childbirth; and consulting with Western New York’s OB-GYN physicians, co-managing additional necessary treatment with the high-risk patient’s primary obstetrician, who will manage the pregnancy and delivery.
Both Maternal-Fetal Medicine Centers use state-of-the-art equipment to help the team provide quality care to their patients. “We know that having a high-risk pregnancy, or delivering a baby that may need specialized care, can turn what should be a joyous time into one that is stress-filled,” says Allegra Jaros, president of Oishei Children’s Hospital. “But it is our hope that this collaboration and the new Northtowns Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center will alleviate that stress for patients and families throughout Western New York by bringing together the area’s leading specialists and latest technology to serve those in our community who are in need of these critical services. Oishei Children’s Hospital is proud to partner with General Physician, PC to be regional leaders in women’s and children’s services.”