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Raising the bar for cancer care

With more and more affiliate sites dotting the map throughout Kentucky and Appalachia, the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network (MCCAN) is providing a growing population of patients and families with access to high-quality cancer care close to home.

This improved access to cancer services is vital, especially across Appalachia where cancer rates continue to rise.

However, the affiliate network is about more than convenience: It is about furthering the Markey mission to improve the quality of cancer care across the state and beyond its borders.

The gold standard for cancer programs

Markey sets the bar high and encourages its affiliate network members to follow suit.

Thus, when Markey received a three-year accreditation renewal in 2017 from the Commission on Cancer (CoC) of the American College of Surgeons, four affiliates also rose to the challenge and achieved their initial designation. That 13 of the 18 total MCCAN partner sites are now CoC-accredited is proof that Markey is successfully extending its reach to ensure cancer patients receive excellent care, whether they’re treated in Lexington or in coordination with facilities in their own communities.

“This accreditation is the gold standard for cancer programs of all sizes to demonstrate their level of commitment to quality cancer care,” said Timothy Mullett, MD, medical director of the affiliate network.

“The CoC accreditation is important because it is a national accreditation that can be achieved by all cancer programs,” said Cheri Tolle, MAEd, CHES, administrative director of the affiliate network. “Whether it’s a small community hospital or a large academic medical center, all are held to the same quality standards regardless of size, so it became clear that this is what we needed to pursue.”

Markey helps affiliates through rigorous review

Earning CoC accreditation requires the successful completion of an on-site evaluation and performance review that assesses a site’s compliance with 34 key quality standards in areas ranging from clinical care quality and the availability of support services to the scope of research and data management.

“From a patient perspective, if you go to a CoC-accredited hospital, you know that they have met a rigorous list of quality standards and that they have the personnel, equipment and resources to provide specific cancer services, or they can refer directly to an accredited center that can,” Tolle said.

All community hospitals and cancer centers that make up the MCCAN either have achieved CoC accreditation or are working toward it, with Markey supporting them every step of the way.

“One of the key features of the affiliate network is our ability to work with other programs to achieve or strengthen their accreditation,” Mullett said.

The MCCAN provides individualized support based on each member’s needs, such as educating providers on the latest surgical techniques or medical therapies, providing aid specific to the CoC review process, offering application assistance, mentoring staff, reviewing policies and procedures, and more.

A continued pursuit of excellence

It is because of these efforts that three MCCAN sites achieved CoC accreditation this year: Clark Regional Medical Center in Winchester, Georgetown Community Hospital in Georgetown and TJ Samson Community Hospital in Glasgow. Methodist Hospital in Western Kentucky was first accredited in 2016.

Current affiliates not yet accredited are working toward achieving this designation in 2018. Those accredited, including Markey, will continue to evaluate and adapt their processes and procedures so that they can maintain their CoC quality standing.

Through its collaborative relationship with affiliates, Markey is well positioned to fulfill a key responsibility as Kentucky’s only cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute: leading the way in improving the quality of cancer care throughout the state.

Markey leads by example

The Commission on Cancer (CoC) designation is awarded to hundreds of cancer programs large and small that demonstrate a commitment to providing high-quality, patient-centered care. However, fewer than 50 programs nationwide earn the CoC’s top-tier rating, the Outstanding Achievement Award. For the first time, the UK Markey Cancer Center has earned this recognition in 2017.

According to Timothy Mullett, MD, Markey had an obligation to rise to the top.

Timothy Mullett, MD
Timothy Mullett, MD

“We are the only National Cancer Institute-designated hospital in Kentucky and we represent a broader Affiliate Network, so our goal is to set the standard for the state,” he said. “We have to represent the level of quality we want others to uphold. We did not want there to be any question that we deliver the best care possible.”

To achieve the CoC Outstanding Achievement Award, Markey received a perfect score on all 27 required quality standards. Mullett’s team then went above and beyond to achieve a commendation rating for seven additional standards, including routinely disseminating outcomes data to the public, employing specialty trained oncology nurses, enrolling patients in cancer-related clinical trials and more.

“This is another measure of the strength of our program, and it shows that we are taking care of patients in the contemporary and comprehensive way that we should,” Mullett said.

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