Familiar, comfortable, and relaxing treatment centers are just the beginning of this revolutionary new medical center in Rockford. Step inside and see the new face of medical excellence.
Tamiliar surroundings and the immeasurable comfort of being at home reduce stress, helping patients to relax and heal. That’s why more and more medical centers are not only recognizing the value of homey treatment but acting on that basic premise.
SwedishAmerican Health System has proven to be a leader in its sensitive approach to patient comfort. In the past decade, the organization has focused considerable effort on designing, creating and maintaining an atmosphere in which patients can feel a bit more at home.
SwedishAmerican’s award-winning cancer program became even stronger on Oct. 15, when a new outpatient cancer center officially opened, in collaboration with UW Health and its nationally recognized University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center. The new SwedishAmerican Regional Cancer Center on North Bell School Road, near Interstate 90, offers services that include medical oncology, chemotherapy and infusion, advanced radiation therapy, and medical imaging, all at one location. Patients have access to physicians from both organizations, including a UW oncologist who’s a regular member of the center’s team. They also may participate in the latest clinical trials offered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, at the center, and benefit from a full complement of holistic and support services.
“Our new cancer center is a major milestone for Swedish-American, and for cancer treatment in northern Illinois,” says SwedishAmerican President and CEO Dr. Bill Gorski. “This facility will consolidate services currently offered at multiple locations, making life easier for patients.”
Diane Scoville, MSHA, director of oncology and infusion services, says the entire center is designed to promote healing and enrich each patient’s mind and spirit.
“A diagnosis of cancer is traumatic enough,” she says. “The last thing a patient needs is a cold, sterile environment during treatment.”
A number of options are available to address the mental and spiritual needs of patients during treatment and into survivorship. These include creative programs involving art and music, comforting programs such as pet visits, and perspective exercises like journaling. Within the building, careful consideration was given to the use of color schemes, lighting and decor.
“We treat the whole person instead of just the cancer,” says Scoville, who joined SwedishAmerican’s oncology team five years ago. With just one year on the job, she became an integral part of the new Regional Cancer Center’s development team, which included colleagues from both SwedishAmerican and UW Health.
“We spent two years on design, meeting weekly,” Scoville adds. “Then it took 18 months of actual construction to bring our ideas to reality. It’s been a labor of love. I’ve been involved, since the beginning, with staff, doctors and an advisory patient council that included current and past patients plus their families. Every single one had input into the center. It was very much a collegial effort from the start. We spent some grueling, long days in meetings, constantly asking ourselves what would make the center better.”
One of the innovative design elements gives patients undergoing chemotherapy options on how they receive the therapy. Patients can choose from three treatment environments: an open area where other patients also are being treated, which allows for interaction; a semi-private space; or a totally private one. Television sets and laptop hookups help patients to pass the time. There are also quiet places where patients can go to reflect.
“Patients can change their minds from one treatment to the next, so the atmosphere is flexible to meet their needs,” Scoville explains.
Even the temperature surrounding patients was evaluated. Because cancer patients often feel cold, SwedishAmerican installed radiant panels that provide more heat as needed, and heating elements in the chemotherapy chairs.
“We took into account all the factors that might help patients move through their individual treatments with a maximum of mental and physical comfort,” Scoville says.
Dr. Nameer Al Mardini joined the staff at SwedishAmerican two years ago. A board-certified oncologist and hematologist who also specializes in bone marrow transplant, Al Mardini immediately became involved in the final stages of the center’s design.
“I was fortunate in that I interned with large universities and could bring multiple experiences to the table,” he says. “I was familiar with the emerging focus on mind and spirit in relationship to cancer treatment.”
Al Mardini explains that an increasing number of studies strongly indicate that by surrounding patients with comforting, relaxing environments, they not only heal better, but they also live longer.
“It’s difficult to measure these types of influences because of their intangible nature,” Al Mardini says. “When the results are noticeable, we all have to take them seriously. It’s wonderful to see patients come in and enjoy the healing garden.”
The new treatment program includes an increase in private rooms, from eight to 17. The choices of private, semi-private and more social environments takes into consideration each patient’s changing needs and moods as treatment progresses.
“Because they spend hours here every time they come in for treatment, it’s important that they continually feel at ease and relaxed,” Al Mardini says.
Another innovative aspect of SwedishAmerican’s Regional Cancer Center is its integrated medical clinic that offers natural supplements. Al Mardini adds that, in line with holistic medicine, patients can choose yoga and acupuncture to help them cope with the stress of cancer therapies.
“This is another emerging field, and we’re bringing an intensively trained specialist on board,” Al Mardini says. “The center also will offer educational classes because it is vital that patients have the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about their care.”
The selected site of the cancer center, on North Bell School Road, provides two distinct advantages. “Because of the partnership between SwedishAmerican and UW, this location’s close proximity to I-90 and I-39 makes it easier for doctors to travel to our clinic,” Al Mardini explains. “And of course, our patients will find it more convenient to have all their treatments and appointments at one site.”
Equally as important, the center will be able to offer more clinical trials through SwedishAmerican’s relationship with UW Health. The availability of clinical trials is important to advanced cancer patients, Al Mardini emphasizes, and because of the special precautions inherent in trials, two private rooms have been designed specifically for their facilitation. “We expect to attract clinical trial patients from outside the region,” Al Mardini adds. “That was another reason why locating close to I-90 was vital.”
SwedishAmerican’s cancer center averages about 300 visits daily. With all cancer care services consolidated into one site, Scoville says, patients will benefit from the convenience of having their treatments, rehabilitation and doctors all in one place, in addition to other amenities.
Scoville also credits volunteers from the American Cancer Society for helping to transport patients to doctor visits and treatments on a daily basis at no cost. “It is such a wonderful thing that those volunteers do,” he says.
Multidisciplinary treatments for newly diagnosed lung and breast cancer patients are among the key offerings at the new SwedishAmerican cancer center. Patients meet with an entire team of physicians at one location. Medical experts review each patient’s workup as a team and develop an individualized, comprehensive treatment plan.
Multidisciplinary teams may include surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, pulmonologists, radiologists and pathologists. In addition, nurse navigators assist patients with education, support and coordination of services throughout their diagnosis and treatment, working closely with referring physicians to enhance communication and follow-up. When appropriate, multidisciplinary teams also include medical experts from UW Health.
Lung cancer, the second most common cancer in both men and women, often goes undetected until it’s reached an advanced stage, which can affect survival. Therefore, patients diagnosed with lung cancer require a team approach to their care. In September, SwedishAmerican was among the nation’s first hospitals to earn The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for its lung cancer care. The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies U.S. health care organizations and programs.
Prior to receiving the recognition, SwedishAmerican underwent rigorous preparation for the on-site survey. The hospital and outpatient clinic sites were evaluated for compliance with standards of care specific to the needs of patients and families, including program management, delivery of clinical care, supporting patient self-management, clinical information management and performance measurement.
SwedishAmerican achieved distinction as a “Lung Cancer Center of Excellence” through its integrated approach.
“We’re in an elite group, since there are only five other lung cancer-certified hospitals in the country, the closest one being in Columbus, Ohio,” says Gorski. “This honor affirms our commitment to the highest level of care for patients with lung cancer.”
Because of the aging population and refinements in cancer treatment, including multidisciplinary approaches, the percentage of survivors is steadily increasing. The ACS estimates that about 550,000 Illinois residents are cancer survivors, thanks to facilities such as the SwedishAmerican Regional Cancer Center.