Every year in April, a crowd of healthcare professionals who work in cancer care gather to recognize and celebrate the top initiatives from across the province of Ontario that have led to significant improvements to the delivery of cancer care.
Known as the Cancer Quality Council of Ontario (CQCO) Quality and Innovation Awards this event honours healthcare initiatives that improve the performance of cancer care in Ontario and act as a knowledge transfer tool to disseminate best practices within the cancer community. This year, the South East regional cancer program received the Innovation Award honourable mention for the work done around helping patients receive cancer treatment as close to home as possible.
“It’s an incredible feeling to have our team recognized for the work, planning and collaboration that was put into helping create a better experience for our patients,” says Leslie Young, Pharmacy Manager, Oncology Practice and Sterile Products. “This honourable mention is a result of a true team effort with our satellite hospitals across Southeastern Ontario and it’s wonderful to see our entire regional team recognized in this manner.”
Using an innovative approach, the regional cancer program created a centralized pharmacy compounding process that transports individually compounded chemotherapy treatments to two of the satellite clinics in the region. Under this new process, the regional cancer centre in Kingston mixes, prepares and transports chemotherapy to Brockville General Hospital and Perth Smiths Falls Hospitals on a daily basis.
For patients, this means they can go to their community hospital for specialized cancer treatment instead of having to travel to Kingston. Increasing access locally saves both time and money required to travel for treatment, ultimately enhancing the patient experience.
“We had some patients who had to regularly come from far distances to receive this important treatment, and as a Regional Program our goal was to offer patients with the opportunity to receive the same treatment closer to where they live,” says Kardi Kennedy, Program Operational Director for the Cancer Program. “We saw an opportunity to create a solution that would help our patients receive the care they need closer to home and minimize the travel and stress for them and their loved ones.”
This new process has also led to savings at a system level as the community hospitals do not need to create and sustain the pharmacy infrastructure provided by the regional cancer centre in Kingston. It has also improved oncology knowledge and expertise in the community hospitals, reduced drug wastage of expensive chemotherapy drugs and developed a model where services are expanded in the cancer centre pharmacy in Kingston where there is expertise in the safe compounding of hazardous drugs.
For patients, the real value is being able to receive care closer to home in a manner that does not impact the integrity and effectiveness of the treatment.
“Every week some of our patients are able to receive their treatment closer to home thanks to the systemic treatment transport program. It is an incredible honour to be part of a team who helps ensure these patients are able to continue to receive treatment without the countless hours of driving back and forth to Kingston,” says Patrice Hunter, Drug Access Coordinator. “To be recognized for being just a small part of the process is just the icing on the cake.”
The South East regional cancer program is the first in Ontario that created the ability to maintain safety standards for systemic treatment, drug compounding and transportation of dangerous goods in order to improve access and provide a patient-centered approach to care as close to home as possible. Since implementation of the new centralized pharmacy in 2016, over 2,000 treatments have been delivered to the community hospitals.