Just north of the Rexford Bridge and Schenectady County line sits an acclaimed cancer center that Schenectady has long considered its own. Providing cancer and blood disorder patients with an array of services, the New York Oncology Hematology Rexford Cancer Center had one easy way to expand its patient care to new levels.
It would be a bit unorthodox. But with regional and national health care needing reform, innovation and efficiencies, it was worth a try.
That’s what cinched the deal for Ellis Medicine, anyway. By 2013, maybe sooner, Ellis, with its own innovative cancer care program, will assume daily operations at the NYOH Rexford Cancer Center in a unique partnership designed to benefit Ellis, NYOH and the community.
“When someone has cancer, often it’s a collaboration of many specialists — your medical oncologists, your surgeons, radiologists, pathologists — sitting around a table and working on a care plan for a particular patient,” said Ellis Medicine spokeswoman Donna Evans. “Now, patients with cancer can see all the specialists they need to see, from inpatient to outpatient services, all under one roof.”
NYOH and Ellis officials announced the new partnership Friday, which would provide an integrated approach to cancer care that draws on the strengths of both organizations.
As part of the plan, Ellis Medicine will expand its outpatient radiation services department to the NYOH Rexford Cancer Center at 896 Riverview Road. It will continue to provide cancer services at its main campus on Nott Street, so the collaboration essentially expands its outpatient services to include NYOH’s specialty in oncology.
Pending approval of a certificate of need application by the state Department of Health, Ellis will assume operations at the Rexford site, which will be called Ellis Medicine Cancer Care Center.
NYOH has more than 300 staff at its seven care centers in Albany, Amsterdam, Hudson, Latham, Troy and Rexford who treat patients with cancer or blood-related disorders.
Currently, the Rexford Cancer Center employs five physicians and several dozen other staff. Under the new plan, non-physician staff there would be employed by Ellis Medicine, but the physicians would remain members of the NYOH practice and continue to see patients at their present office locations.
The idea behind the proposed affiliation is to build upon the collective expertise, technologies and specialized physicians and staff of NYOH and Ellis and provide greater coordination of cancer care services — from routine screenings and diagnostics to treatment and survivorship.
“We’re seeing a unique solution right now” said NYOH Executive Director Edwin Graham. “As a result of the Ellis-St. Clare’s merger a few years ago, Ellis has really emerged as the leading health care provider in the Rexford-Schenectady marketplace. So we wanted to know, how do we bring together the best of both?”
The best of the Rexford Cancer Center includes services that range from hematology, medical and radiation oncology to infusion therapy, chemotherapy, diagnostic CTs and hereditary risk assessments.
The best of Ellis Medicine’s program is that it offers the full resources of a hospital, from diagnostics and imaging to advanced treatments like image-guided radiation therapy and radioactive seed implants, and a breast health nurse navigator who provides guidance to a patient from diagnosis to recovery. The nurse navigator program will expand to include other types of cancer.
The decision to work collaboratively is a reflection of the changing health care environment, agreed NYOH and Ellis officials. More providers are taking innovative approaches to deliver the “triple aim:” improving the health of the community, improving patient experience, and achieving efficiencies that thwart the rising cost of health care.
“If we chose not to collaborate in the manner that we did … there might be a certain level of redundancy that ultimately the health care consumer ends up paying,” said Graham. “So this really comes down to how do you best align and is there a nice fit that works to the strengths of each organization?”
In a memo to NYOH patients, board President Nini Wu cited the provider’s close relationship with Ellis over the decades, and called the new relationship an important next step in providing “world-class cancer care services in the local community.”
Wendy Rosher agreed. The vice president of clinical services at Ellis Medicine helped formulate the new relationship, which she said keeps the patient as the focus for both organizations.
“We’ll be working together instead of competing with each other,” she said. “We’re at the forefront in the oncology world by bringing these services under one entity. And our relationship with the Rexford Cancer Center goes back decades in this community. So we’ve already been working together for a long time to meet those needs of our cancer patients.”