'It's Not a Death Sentence': How Comprehensive Lung Programs Improve Outcomes


Tue Mar 29 13:00:26 CDT 2016

Today, lung cancer is the most fatal form of cancer for both men and women in the United States. The American Lung Association estimates that 159,260 Americans will die of lung cancer in 2014, which is more than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined.


Yet, according to Emily Elswick, Senior Director of Market Development at Covidien Interventional Lung Solutions, lung cancer can have – and should have – similar outcomes to breast or prostate cancer (which respectively have 89.2% and 99.2% 5-year survival rates, compared to 16.6% for lung, according to the American Lung Association).


This is due, in large part, to the fragmented and often disjointed lung cancer care continuum.  The system is very difficult for patients to navigate.  Not only does this result in confusion and frustration for the patient, but it also negatively impacts survival rates.  Proper care coordination is vital to improve both the patient experience and stage of lung cancer at diagnosis. 


Improve outcomes with early detection technology & infrastructure


“If hospitals focus time and energy on building comprehensive programs around lung cancer [early detection], it will allow them to find the disease at a more treatable time and stage,” Elswick said. On average, around 85% of patients are diagnosed during the late stages of the disease.1 “It’s a disease, not a death sentence, and it can be more manageable.”


Vital to the success of these comprehensive lung programs, is having the proper infrastructure to guide a patient all the way from detection to cure. “We work with physicians to train them in our technology,” Elswick said. “We then work with C-Suite constituents and the multidisciplinary team around how to build the operational infrastructure of a comprehensive lung program.”


Case Study: Transforming treatment into a service line


The key, according to Elswick, is treating lung programs like a service line. With early diagnostic technology and a clear treatment pathway from diagnosis to recovery, an organization’s comprehensive lung program (rather than a primary care physician alone) can better coordinate care, improve outcomes and lower costs for the patient while increasing revenue for the organization.


Saint Thomas Health in Nashville, for example, has seen significant improvements in earlier diagnosis by reframing lung cancer treatment as a service line, providing patients with a comprehensive program focused on early detection. (In one case study, 54% of patients were diagnosed at stage I or II.)


“They [Saint Thomas] highlighted in their annual report last year that lung is an example of a service line that they’re doing right,” Elswick said. “Our ultimate goal is early detection with immediate resection, which puts a patient’s survival rate of close to 90%.”2


Watch our on-demand webinar Coverage is Here: Are You Ready for New Lung Cancer Screening Patients?  This webinar covers the importance and implications of the recent CMS decision, essential components needed for a lung screening program and feature a case study of a lung program that has successfully implemented these recommendations.


1. American Cancer Society: Facts and Figures 2014.

2. SEER Cancer Statistics Review; 1975-2008; National Cancer Institute.