Stephen Dreyer, MD
Networks are ubiquitous structures in our biological, physical, and social environments that provide for the interconnectedness of the elements in nature. When these networks function properly, life can exist and flourish. The patterns of these networks are very similar, whether they are a social cohort of college friends or the metabolic regulatory network in a bacterium. They are self-organizing, dynamic structures that evolve over time by growth in the number of nodes and improve their efficiency thru the formation of preferential linkages to special nodes that become hubs.
The value of a network is partially determined by its capacity or number of nodes attached to it. The preponderance of value, however, is generated by the vast number of group formations that networks enable and the conferencing functions that these groups perform. Networks create new functionalities by allowing new collaborating groups to form. At the heart of this primary driver of value is the important trait of flexibility by which a network can allocate capacity to meet demands for certain functions. In concrete terms, networks permit the allocation of resources for collaborative efforts to solve an identified problem, and when the task is completed, a new group can be configured to solve the next one. The power of collaboration is enhanced thru a secure, robust, flexible network.
Cancer is a multifaceted disease process that affects the individual physically, psychologically, socially, and economically, as well as his/her family. To successfully combat this disease process, a strong network structure is needed. Through it, healthcare professionals could effectively collaborate to plan a course of action that is appropriate for an individual patient and his primary disease process, as well as deal with other concerns of the patient that are needed to restore in him a sense of well being. This decision-making process should be supported by a robust, reliable data network that permits the continuous measurement, analysis, and improvement of the patient care process to achieve the best possible outcome.
Patient-centered quality cancer care at Fremont Area Medical Center is supported by two separate but interconnected networks. The first is the network of healthcare providers that meet each week at Tumor Board to evaluate and plan the most appropriate treatment for each cancer patient diagnosed through FAMC. In 2010, there were 45 meetings held to discuss and plan the care of approximately 240 patients who were newly-diagnosed with cancer. Over time, the Tumor Board has become the hub of the healthcare provider network because of its collaborative spirit, inclusiveness, and the ease of access to the essential information needed for patient management decisions and treatment planning.
The second is the National Cancer Data Base and its reporting tools, quality metrics, and comparative data bases which enable cancer care providers to analyze and improve their treatment planning decisions. The NCDB is the central hub for quality cancer data in the U.S. It has evolved over time with significant improvements in quality of data, improved functionalities, and ease of use.
The Commission on Cancer Accreditation of a healthcare facility is the link that provides connectivity between these two essential networks. As a result of this linkage, the power of collaboration among members of the healthcare network is greatly enhanced. This collaboration assures that each cancer patient has a thoughtfully developed treatment plan that is appropriate for his/her stage of disease, is developed from an evidence-based guideline, and is completed in a timely manner to achieve the best possible outcome.
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