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A Winning Strategy for Cancer Care

Jun 20, 2019 07:00AM ● By Alyssa McGinnis

Sanford Health recently received the outstanding achievement award from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. Sanford is one of more than 1500 CoC-accredited cancer centers across the US. Seventy percent of cancer patients are diagnosed at one of these hospitals.

Going Above and Beyond

As an accredited institution, Sanford is surveyed for re-accreditation every three years. Of the 500 institutions reviewed in 2018, Sanford was one of just 24 to receive the outstanding achievement award.

“This puts us in the top 5 percent of cancer hospitals in the US, according to the CoC,” says Thomas Asfeldt, RN, BAN, MBA, Director of Outpatient Cancer Services at Sanford USD Medical Center.

In addition to meeting all CoC standard without deficiencies, Asfeldt says Sanford received a commendation for each of the areas in which a commendation can be earned - the only hospital in South Dakota, Iowa or North Dakota to do so within the most recent three-year period.

“What it means is that we are going above and beyond what the standard requirements are for the commission on cancer,” says Asfeldt.

Setting the Standard

It also means that Sanford is helping to set the standard for cancer care best practices across the country.

“I not infrequently get emails or phone calls about how are you doing this or that or how are you accomplishing this?” says Asfeldt. “It is a great way to share best practices and to collaborate with people across the country. I enjoy being able to share these kinds of things.”

At the same time, Asfeldt says he is constantly learning from other institutions.

“The best way to improve care is not to reinvent the wheel but to find a wheel that is turning fast and efficiently and learn from them,” he says “I go and look at who is doing something really well and I go talk to them to figure out how to adapt what they are doing to the Sanford environment.”

Two Highlighted Areas

Two areas highlighted in the most recent CoC survey were Sanford’s clinical research program and its multidisciplinary approach to each cancer case.

“Nationwide, only about 3 percent of patients are enrolled in a clinical trial,” says Asfeldt. “You need to be at least 6 percent enrollment to be accredited and 8 percent to receive commentation. Sanford’s most recent clinical trial enrollment level was 26 percent. The CoC highlighted this as exceptional.”

The other highlighted exception area was Sanford’s multidisciplinary conferences.

“This is something we are highly committed to,” says Asfeldt. “We have 8 different cancer conferences every single week to make sure all patients get in front of multiple doctors, maximizing their chances for a positive outcome. In 2018, we held 386 individual cancer conferences including physicians and nurses, nurse navigators, clinical research staff, social workers and others.”

“When you consider that we have about 2,000 new cancer patients every year, that is a high level of multidisciplinary prospective case conferences.”

Asfeldt says CoC surveyors who attended a conference at Sanford commented on the rapport of physicians and the preparatory work done prior to the meeting.

Visit the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer online for more information on the review process.