A cancer center was having a difficult time coordinating the care of its head and neck cancer patients. Services were not scheduled in the correct order and dental clearance was taking two to three weeks, which held up the initial treatment for the patient. The clinical performance group (CPG)—which included surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, dentists, prosthodontists, health psychologists, navigators, a social worker, a dietitian, and a speech/swallowing therapist—reviewed the NCCN guidelines, created a process map, and brainstormed best practices for its patients to ensure success, smooth transition, and enhanced patient experience.
The CPG wanted to standardize the care provided for head and neck cancer patients and accomplish its goals of enhancing patient experience and value-based care initiatives. As the team process mapped the head and neck cancer patient journey across the continuum, they identified many opportunities for improvement. The navigator created a standing order set that included referrals to all appropriate physicians and support staff. A patient appointment checklist was developed to educate the patient on the role of each provider and support staff with clear definitions and explanations.
Palliative care education at the time of diagnosis was also a tremendous need for these patients and the team decided to create a palliative care policy, including a script for the navigator’s communication with the patient. The script ensured that patients fully understood the role of palliative care. A palliative care toolkit was developed to set navigators up for success; the toolkit contained the following documents: