What it takes to build a cancer center

OSF HealthCare made the difficult decision to exit the community cancer center in early 2020 after their partner announced they were selling to a different health care system. While this could have been viewed as a setback, OSF took the unique opportunity to plan and build a brand new state-of-the-art facility.

“All we had to do is figure out how to develop a cancer center without interrupting care for our patients,” said Lynn Fulton, president of OSF St. Joseph. “The solution was to set up a temporary cancer center while we designed the permanent location. To make that happen, we pulled in Eric Webb from PointCore, who was instrumental in the sourcing and contracting of a portable linear accelerator, as well as Matt Steffen from Performance Improvement.”

In addition to the space, it was also important to hire a team that would serve in both the temporary and permanent locations.

“We had tremendous interest in our new center,” Fulton said. “I was fortunate to hire Lacey Howard, a radiation therapist. Lacey assumed the role of supervisor and now serves as our cancer center manager. She provided the clinical leadership needed to begin offering services quickly.”

With staffing in place, OSF St. Joseph stood up the temporary cancer center in a matter of months and began planning the permanent site. The new OSF Cancer Center opened its doors to patients a year later in October 2021.

Process mapping

With plans to use the first floor of the OSF Center for Health in Bloomington as the permanent location of the OSF Cancer Center, the occupants of the second floor gave a portion of their space to the cancer center team for the temporary site.

“Two days after OSF hired the team for the cancer center, we started working on process maps to open up the location as soon as possible,” said Matt Steffen, a Performance Improvement specialist at OSF St. Joseph. “This requires the creation of a step-by-step flowchart to visualize all the activities that occur in a process and who performs them.”

The temporary location opened with the use of a mobile unit that contained a portable linear accelerator to offer radiation beam therapy to patients. Performance Improvement then put together a multidisciplinary group to map out workflows for radiation therapy, nurse navigation, genetic counseling, pharmaceutical support, lab testing and infusion services.

“Our goal was to build a patient-centered model. We set out to process map the patient journey from the moment they are diagnosed with cancer to the day they finish their treatments,” Steffen said. “That meant talking with Mission Partners from each discipline to understand the steps they take to serve our patients.”

The multidisciplinary team then used this information to discover opportunities for improvement, streamline processes and create innovative solutions to problems patients might encounter. Performance Improvement held weekly assessment meetings to ensure project milestones were met on time.

“With the help of Performance Improvement, we were able to connect with so many different departments and provide great care for our patients, even in the temporary space,” said Lexie Schwartz, director of Outpatient and Ancillary Services at OSF St. Joseph. “We were then able to move into our permanent space without any disruption to our patients.”

OSF Cancer Center in Bloomington

The temporary location of the OSF Cancer Center closed on October 15, 2021. The permanent site opened four days later. The facility offers the latest in radiation therapy, infusion services, genetic counseling, pastoral care and access to clinical trials. Nurse navigators are available to guide patients from diagnosis through treatment.

Learn more about our OSF Cancer Centers.

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“The partnership between Performance Improvement and our cancer center leadership team was critical in the development of the OSF Cancer Center in Bloomington,” Fulton said. “By pairing our clinical expertise with Performance Improvement’s tools, resources and project management expertise, we were able to create a true patient-centered delivery model.”

About Author: Denise Molina-Weiger

Denise Molina-Weiger is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where she has worked since March 2015. She initially came to OSF to write about the work taking place at the Jump Trading Simulation & Education Center, one of the world’s largest simulation and innovation centers and went on to become the Media Relations Coordinator for OSF Innovation which was developed to help the hospital system lead the way in transforming care.

Before joining the OSF HealthCare team, Denise was a reporter for Peoria Public Radio for ten years, writing on everything from politics, housing and transportation issues to hospital care in the region. She earned her bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting from Western Illinois University in 2003 and received her master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield in 2004.

Denise lives in West Peoria with her husband, son and two crazy dogs. In her spare time, she likes to snuggle on the couch with her family and watch cooking shows on Netflix. She loves taking road trips with her family and then complaining about it when they are over.

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Categories: Innovation