How to Prepare for Your First Phone Call to MSK

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Phone call to Memorial Sloan Kettering

Have a pen and paper handy for your first call to MSK.

The path to the doorstep of Memorial Sloan Kettering begins before you or a loved one come here for the first time. It’s important that we’re with you every step of the way, starting with your very first phone call.

It can be daunting to place that first call, when so many questions are swirling through your head. Our Patient Access Service (PAS) team is uniquely qualified to handle these questions and get you started at MSK.

“We want to help people get to MSK as soon as possible because that’s when they start to feel like they have a plan in place,” says Alice Peterson, who directs PAS.

Ms. Peterson filled us in on how to get started.

What to Expect

Our PAS team is ready to take your call Monday through Friday, from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm ET. First, you’ll need to know which phone number to call:

You’ll first be prompted to select the type of cancer you’re calling about. Then, you’ll be connected to an MSK Care Advisor, a member of the PAS team who is not only an expert in cancer but also in your particular diagnosis. You can expect to spend about 15 minutes on the phone with him or her.

“There is going to be a person on the other end who is likely going to help you all the way through the process of matching you with a doctor and making your first appointment,” Ms. Peterson says, adding that all MSK Care Advisors are “patient, kind, and empathetic.”

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What to Have on Hand

It’s a good idea to have a pen and paper nearby so that you can take notes. Before you call, you’ll want to know the patient’s name and date of birth, plus some background information, including:

  • the circumstances and symptoms leading up to the diagnosis
  • where and when the diagnosis was made
  • what type of treatment, or next step, the doctor has recommended
  • what imaging tests and/or pathology have been done

“Our goal is to determine which service, doctor, and type of treatment — surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology — would best suit the patient,” Ms. Peterson says. “We also want to think about which MSK location makes sense and is most convenient for them.”

The MSK Care Advisor will likely ask you to fax copies of the reports from the imaging and pathology the patient has had to date; if you don’t have them, the advisor can help you obtain them. 

While you don’t need to know the patient’s insurance information when you call, having a general idea of the provider can help start the process. MSK also offers financial assistance for those who are not insured.

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Choosing a Doctor

If you know of a particular doctor you’d like to see, we’ll do our best to accommodate that request. But sometimes, you or your loved one may be able to see another physician sooner. No matter whom the appointment is with, our experts work together to deliver the best care.

“We talk a lot about how the services work as a team, and how collaboratively physicians work within a service,” Ms. Peterson says.

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Before You Go

Before your first appointment, we’ll invite you or your loved one to our online patient portal, MyMSK, which you can use to prepare. On MyMSK, you can upload medical records, read about your a diagnosis, learn about your care team, and download forms so you can get into your appointment faster. You can continue to use MyMSK after your first appointment, too, to stay connected with us.

If you decide not to come to MSK, that’s OK too.

“Whether or not patients ultimately come for a visit,” Ms. Peterson says, “our goal is that people end the call feeling better informed and better off than when they placed it.”

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