by Madappa Kundranda, MD, PhD, Cancer Treatment Centers of America Medical Oncologist
Patient Empowered Care® is truly about putting the patient first. It’s a concept that is rooted in the most basic of our medical practices in that if I am treating a patient with medications, then it is absolutely my duty to inform them and be educated on how this medication(s)can help to fight their disease. However, it is equally important for a patient to be a part of the decision making process.
Here at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, we have built a treatment model around this sort of patient-focused care because we believe that if your treatment team puts you in the center of your care, you and your family can worry less about having to coordinate everything and focus on healing instead. The Patient Empowered Care model means that each time you have an appointment, your medical oncologist, clinic nurse, registered dietitian, naturopathic physician and nurse care manager come to you.
This collaboration is truly phenomenal and we are able to integrate experts in various fields into one team, so that the patient and each of their providers have the support they need. A great example of how this works is in the case of exercise. We know that exercise can boost your immune system, but for some people who have issues including cancer involving the bones, it is painful to exercise and they are not sure if and when they will be able to move fluidly again. With Patient Empowered Care, I am able to recommend exercise, but then also pair the patient with our in-house rehabilitation staff. The oncology specialized rehabilitation team are able to work with patients help them exercise safely and effectively without causing more damage.
However, it is not just the physical side that we worry about; it is also the emotional side of a cancer diagnosis that can be difficult to handle both for the patient and family. In order for a medical oncologist to provide the best care, , I strongly feel that we have to treat the whole person, not just the cancer. That is why as part of our Patient Empowered Care team we employ mind-body therapists that can help people cope with the stress and the emotions that go hand in hand with the news of a cancer diagnosis. If non-pharmaceutical methods don’t work, we then have the opportunity to escalate it to a psychologist who can work with the team on a day-to-day basis.
I understand that this model might not be available for everybody currently undergoing cancer treatment, but anybody can become an empowered patient by asking the right questions, such as if there is an option for appropriate clinical trials or do you have opportunities to meet with an integrative team with nutritionists or rehabilitation experts on staff? Here are a few other questions that we encourage our patients to ask us to ensure they are empowered in their care:
When you are diagnosed with cancer, you have no control over getting that diagnosis, but you can control how you manage it, and that is the true spirit of Patient Empowered Care.