At Augusta Health, providing cancer care is not confined to the Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders. From fitness to nutrition to mental health and genetic counseling, the Augusta approach to cancer treatment is holistic and defined by a team effort that crosses disciplines and specialties.
“Physicians have always collaborated behind the scenes, and Augusta Health recognizes that the key to the best patient care is provider-to-provider interaction. The Cancer Center has facilitated that without considering practice bias or competition,” says Buckley Gillock, MD, of Blue Ridge Urological, PC, a private urology practice located on the hospital campus. “The hospital’s support of the Cancer Center has empowered the physicians there to reach out to private practices to comanage patients in a seamless manner,” he adds.
Patients with bladder, prostate or kidney cancer may not realize that they have a malignancy. They may show nonspecific symptoms, such as blood in their urine, and be diagnosed by a urologist. Determining the course of treatment for these conditions is best accomplished by bringing together multiple experts who can advise on the pros and cons of any and all approaches.
The Cancer Center coordinates this collaborative medicine through its recurring tumor board. Tumor boards bring together healthcare professionals from multiple disciplines to discuss cancer diagnoses from many angles. Augusta’s tumor board includes oncologists, pathologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists and primary care providers (PCPs), along with specialists like Dr. Gillock and his partners at Blue Ridge, Bill Jones, MD; Brian Stisser, MD; and Mark Anderson, MD.
“A case can be presented and evaluated collectively with the goal of establishing an appropriate, personally tailored, evidence-based plan for that patient,” Dr. Gillock says.
Blue Ridge Urological’s physicians work closely with Augusta oncologists, hematologists and navigators to provide holistic care for cancer patients. Dr. Jones notes that cancer navigators have been a very positive addition to the care team—especially as genetic testing becomes a bigger part of treatment and assessing risks.
“Having a navigator present for patient visits in our office and at the hospital, who can follow up with tests and visits for patients, communicate patient concerns to providers and offer support to patients, makes a huge difference so that people can weave their way through the different modalities in their care,” Dr. Gillock adds.
Another important component of the team approach is PCPs. Dr. Gillock says that PCPs are often consulted in treatment to coordinate care but also to help build confidence and trust with patients.
“When someone’s a urological patient, they’re with us for life,” Dr. Jones adds. “We have 20- to 30-year relationships with some of our patients. We know them as people—apart from the disease that brought us together—and that continuity is a big advantage.”
Interested in clinical trials? Clinical trials are an important tool in advancing cancer care, and Augusta is proud to partner with Duke University to offer patients the opportunity to participate in revolutionary treatment studies. Ask your doctor if a clinical trial is an option for you.