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Building a Team 

Coordinated care is the goal of a new providers' alliance

The fight against cancer can engage an army of health care providers — from front-line family physicians to the most cutting-edge surgical specialists. Navigating the battlefield, though, can be frustrating and expensive for patients and their families.

"How can we knit together a delivery system for cancer patients in the Inland Northwest that better meets their needs?" says Scott O'Brien, Providence Health Care's Chief Strategy Officer. Taking a cue from the Seattle Cancer Alliance, which includes the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and other entities, Providence Health Care, Kootenai Health and Cancer Care Northwest have formed an alliance in which they've agreed to collaborate on providing better cancer treatment in the region.

For patients, the alliance ultimately should offer a more streamlined experience. Members of the care team of will work out the logistics of planning and scheduling treatment and make sure that the patient's medical record information is passed along to the correct parties. "Our hope would be that once we know where your next step is, the person in the office will say, 'Here's where you're gonna go, I know so and so, and this is what you can expect,'" says O'Brien. Better management of records should help reduce costs from unneeded or duplicated procedures and testing. Even better, patients often may be able to access multiple services at one location.

One thing the alliance won't include is a unique brick-and-mortar location. "Putting the services out into the community where people can access them has been an important part of our planning," says Warren Benincosa, chief executive officer of Cancer Care Northwest. He notes that CCNW sites will double from four to eight with the alliance.

On a broader level, the alliance may make it possible for new services to be offered in the region. "We're hoping that by coming together, we have enough critical mass to provide some of that care locally, so those patients don't have to leave [for treatment]," O'Brien says.

Radiation therapy will be the first service to fall under the alliance, scheduled to be up and running this spring, with more to follow.

"This is a huge undertaking by all parties to bring this all together," says Benincosa. "However, we know that we are doing it for the right reasons, and that is to bring the highest level of quality cancer care in radiation to the people living in the region."

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