Kootenai Health’s continuum of care approach is making a difference for patients in northern Idaho.
“I can do more for these patients,” thought Dr. Todd Hoopman, medical director for the lung nodule program at Kootenai Health in northern Idaho.
Inspired by what he had just seen and heard at the 2016 Medtronic Global Lung Health Summit, Dr. Hoopman spent his entire flight home writing. First, he spent two hours “feverishly” drafting a new plan for 2018 and beyond.
Then, Dr. Hoopman fired off an email to the Medtronic Lung Health team. In it, he vowed to “do more” and described his new vision: “It is bold. It is different than anything else currently occurring at Kootenai Health. It is going to be a difficult sell to all the involved parties. But ‘it’ is going to make a difference.”
Dr. Hoopman assembled a team of nurses, surgeons, and hospital administrators focused on a singular goal: to catch lung cancer earlier. They tapped the expertise of the Medtronic Lung Health team to create a better way to screen, track, and treat more lung cancer patients — earlier. Especially those with an incidental diagnosis.
An incidental diagnosis occurs when a lung nodule is identified during treatment for a different illness or injury. Patient Carl Blish, for example, saw his doctor following a slip on the ice. The CT scan to look for broken ribs revealed something else entirely: a spot on his lungs.
“I was shocked,” Carl recalls. “Physically, I hadn’t felt anything at all.”
“Patients often come to our attention through the discovery of incidental nodules,” says Dr. Hoopman. But, he says, those patients can easily fall through the cracks. “They typically aren’t tracked well and sometimes don’t even know they need treatment. Now, we have a way to track —and effectively treat — these patients.”
Too often, lung cancer is caught in stages three and four when treatment options are limited.1 What’s more, treatment of late-stage nodules is 300 percent costlier than it is for cancers caught at an earlier stage.2 But early detection, diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer can improve outcomes and lessen the disease’s economic burden.
Plus, patients want a more streamlined process. A recent study, which surveyed hundreds of cancer patients, found that services related to convenience and coordination ranked as their highest needs.3
The team at Kootenai Health improved communication between pathologists, pulmonologists, interventional radiologists, oncologists, and cardiothoracic surgeons. And each patient gets a “nurse navigator” to guide them along the often-complex treatment journey. “Medtronic hasn’t been about equipment only,” says Cori Sowa, the team’s thoracic nurse navigator. “Their goal is to help us expand this program and help patients along the entire continuum of care.”
Today at Kootenai Health, patients are tracked, diagnosis happens quickly, surgery is scheduled, and the patient is supported along the way.4 Since this enhanced lung health program was launched, the team has seen a yearly increase in the number of incidental cases identified and tracked, and has shortened the diagnosis-to-treatment timeline significantly.
“We couldn’t do this alone,” says Dr. Hoopman. “The level of support I’ve gotten from Medtronic has been unparalleled.”
Today, Carl’s lung cancer is gone. And stories like his are the reason the Kootenai Health team isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“This is what we’re meant to do on this team,” says Dr. Hoopman. “We’re excited about the future.”
And Dr. Hoopman was right: his bold plan is making a difference.
superDimension™ Navigation System (including Fluoroscopic Navigation): The superDimension™ navigation system is indicated for displaying images of the tracheobronchial tree to aid the physician in guiding endoscopic tools or catheters in the pulmonary tract and to enable marker placement within soft lung tissue. It does not make a diagnosis and is not an endoscopic tool. Not for pediatric use.
Morgensztern et al. J Thoracic Oncology. 2010;5:30
Gildea et al. (2017). ClinicoEconomics and Outcomes Research. 9: 261:269.
“What do Cancer Patients Care About Most?” The Advisory Board Company: Oncology Roundtable
Kootenai Health data on file