Video

Dr Stephen Schleicher: Rural Patient Care Access Is a Top Priority for Community Oncology

Author(s):

Stephen M. Schleicher, MD, MBA, Tennessee Oncology, co-authored a recent paper on the complexities of the rural cancer experience; the principal conclusion was potential for a streamlined care process to optimize care efficiencies and access, thereby improving patient outcomes.

Stephen M. Schleicher, MD, MBA, chief medical officer at Tennessee Oncology, co-authored a recent paper on the complexities of the rural cancer experience. The principal conclusion was potential for a streamlined care process to optimize care efficiencies and access, thereby improving patient outcomes, but that this is hindered by the heterogeneity of the rural patient population.

Here he discusses the importance of outreach to rural patient populations and considerations for measuring the impact of resource utilization, such as food and transportation assistance, meant to ensure they get the care they need when they need it.

Transcript

What are potential best practices to ensure a diverse patient population is represented in data on the rural cancer experience?

Rural health care and making sure that every patient, wherever you live, whatever your social/economic resources are, have the same access to care is a top priority for everybody. I will say, one of the exciting things about community oncology is, we are already there. I’m not saying we have all of the solutions, but by definition, our clinics are in these areas, bringing access to rural populations of patients. That’s Tennessee Oncology’s mission: How do we bring care so that if you’re in downtown New York City vs Lebanon, Tennessee, you get the same care?

The key now is how do we start to study, but also build proof cases around the benefit of helping with food, helping with transportation. Right now, we are relying on partnerships with amazing community partners. But is there some way now to start to use those partnerships to both help our current patients but also study the impact of these resources on patient care so that you can create a sustainable model that someone actually pays for that understands the importance of giving all of these resources to patients so they they have access to care instead of waiting until the disease is too late to do anything about, until they end up at the emergency room. How do you get patients on board early and give access to tools for these patients to actually get the care they need?

We’re working on several grants trying to do that. Tennessee Oncology has a new medical director of health equity and community engagement who is so passionate about this, both from an enrollment in clinical trials standpoint, but these other things: How do we bring resources to our patients [and] meet them where they are to address all these other barriers such that they can get to our clinics and get the treatments they need?

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