Kenneth L Abbott, MD, FACP  |  3/8/2023

CalvertHealth - Duke Cancer Care Affiliation Update

Hardly a clinic day passes without someone mentioning to me her enthusiasm for the new relationship Calvert Health’s oncology program has with Duke University. We anticipated the public would embrace this affiliation. To no one’s surprise, the response has been heartening.

What has the affiliation meant so far for the southern Maryland community? We are currently in the first phase of working conjointly with Duke personnel to streamline provision of cancer care. Among the efforts already bearing fruit is the active participation of Duke oncology specialists in Calvert’s several multidisciplinary cancer case conferences. We hold these meetings several times a month, discussing the circumstances of newly diagnosed cancer patients and engaging the expertise of all involved specialties to develop coordinated, standard of care treatment plans consistent with national guidelines and best practices. Duke cancer care professionals contribute via remote teleconferencing. The result is our patients obtain the benefit of a “virtual opinion” with one of the nation’s top cancer centers without having to travel for in-person consultation, although such may be recommended if appropriate.

For Calvert’s physicians and nurses who attend these meetings, a welcome benefit has been the awarding of continuing medical education credit, recognizing these efforts as improving everyone’s knowledge base and practice. All health care providers, regardless of specialty, may participate and receive credit. This is the first such regular ongoing education program in the history of Calvert Health Systems.

Perhaps of somewhat less tangible benefit for persons not working directly within Calvert Oncology, we are taking advantage of several established, well-vetted Duke chemotherapy order sets. The paramount concern with cancer chemotherapy, other than its effectiveness, is its safety. The design of these order sets promotes regularity of practice across the department and helps identify red flags. Potential problems can then be corrected quickly and complications avoided. We expect to have the most used treatment regimens integrated into the Calvert Health medical record later this summer. When Calvert Health adopts its new electronic health record with chemotherapy ordering this autumn, all of this will convert readily.

What’s on the horizon? Further implementation of best practices, aided by someone else already having done the “heavy lifting.” And the prospect of on-site participation in clinical treatment trials is nearer than ever. Stay tuned.
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