Shared Care Through Collaborative Oncology

Shared Care Through Collaborative Oncology

The Collaborative Oncology team.

The Collaborative Oncology team. Front row, from left: Greg Mason, Kate Levine, Dr. Elizabeth Jewell, Erin Murray, Nicolette Brando. Back row, from left: Tessa Mahood, Sari Feldman, Dr. Michael Bernstein, Jason Penchoff.

MSK patients have historically accessed care through two pathways:  
Patient Access Service (PAS) is a direct access point for patients to call MSK directly to receive an expert medical opinion or request cancer care.
MSK Direct is a national cancer benefit offered to employees and members by employers and unions. MSK has never had a doctor-to-doctor directed referral mechanism. To fill this gap, Collaborative Oncology was created.

Collaborative Oncology is a unique program that delivers value:

  • An avenue through which outside doctors can seamlessly refer their patients to MSK. 
  • Speedy appointment scheduling with MSK. 
  • Direct communication between the outside physician and the MSK physician, through text, email, and phone. 
  • The unique concept of shared patient care. Outside doctors can refer their patients to MSK for a full transfer of care or for specialized portions of care, while also remaining involved in their patient’s journey. 

“We wanted a fast, convenient way that doctors could refer their patients,” says Erin Murray, Senior Program Manager, Strategic Partnerships. “Collaborative Oncology offers physicians a concierge experience where they have an easy access point for patients, direct and timely communication with MSK, and the opportunity to remain actively involved in their patient’s care.”

Why Collaborative Oncology

Dr. Elizabeth Jewell, Gynecologic Surgeon, Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships and the physician who oversees Collaborative Oncology.

Dr. Elizabeth Jewell, Gynecologic Surgeon, Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships and the physician who oversees Collaborative Oncology.

“Our focus is to show outside physicians how Collaborative Oncology can remove barriers and challenges for doctors who want to refer their patients to MSK and to allow those physicians to continue to participate in their patient’s care throughout their cancer diagnosis,” says Jason Penchoff, Senior Director of Physician Engagement Marketing, whose team helps identify targets, develop collateral, and engage physician practices to support Collaborative Oncology.

Douglas Weine, MD, at Red Bank Gastroenterology, was one of the first physician partners to refer patients to MSK through Collaborative Oncology. “I’ve been referring patients to MSK for surgery for many years, and often would not see the patient ever again,” says Dr. Weine. “Over the years, I have seen how the process for patient referrals has been streamlined and improved. I feel informed and involved throughout the patient’s involvement with MSK.”

A Modernized Referral Pathway

Collaborative Oncology enables physician partners to refer patients to MSK via PAS. Kate Levine, Director of MSK Direct and Special Programs, Patient Access, leads a team of Care Advisors who are the first point of contact. “When we receive a referral, my team contacts both the referring doctor and the patient to collect information and schedule the patient’s appointment with MSK,” Kate says. “We are their first point of contact, and we take great pride in making it seamless and timely.”

Erin Murray, Senior Program Manager, Strategic Partnerships.

Erin Murray, Senior Program Manager, Strategic Partnerships.

When scheduling an appointment, the patient’s medical needs, their preferred geography based on zip code, and their preferences for a specific physician are considered by the Care Advisor who determines the best course of action.

While the scheduling is happening, Nicole Figueroa, Group Leader, Patient Financial Services, begins working behind the scenes to secure insurance authorization, if needed. “Collaborative oncology has eliminated the need for patients to get insurance authorization,” Nicole says. “Instead, my team works directly with the referring physician office to get authorization. Patients are already experiencing one of the most stressful times in their lives. This relieves some of that stress.”

Once the appointment is scheduled and insurance authorization is received, Care Advisors connect the MSK physician with the outside physician, providing email and mobile contact information to begin the process of joint decision-making and shared care.  

Communication is the Key

Effective communication between MSK, the patient, and the referring physician is crucial.

Kate Levine, Director, MSK Direct and Special Programs, Patient Access.

Kate Levine, Director, MSK Direct and Special Programs, Patient Access.

Elizabeth Jewell, MD, gynecologic surgeon and Executive Director, Strategic Partnerships, is the physician who oversees Collaborative Oncology. “Open communication happens at every key point in the patient’s journey,” Dr. Jewell says. “Whether it’s following their first visit, relaying test results, or determining treatment, the referring physician is kept in the loop with a personal call, a text, or an email from the MSK physician to keep them informed and involved in deciding on treatment-related decisions.”

“The communication that I receive from MSK is better than any other institution I work with,” Dr. Weine adds. “I get responses from MSK quickly, and patients don’t have to worry about making that first phone call to schedule an appointment. MSK truly partners with us, working with patients to get treatment in their own communities when possible, and following up with physicians regularly.”

Shared Care of Patients

The Collaborative Oncology approach has many benefits for all parties. It places a strong emphasis on providing patient-centered care, sharing care with the referring physicians, and reaching patients who may not otherwise seek care at MSK.

“Sometimes there’s a specific physician at MSK that I would like my patient to see,” Dr. Weine says. “Or a patient may only want to go to MSK for specific parts of their treatment, while relying on their local physician for the rest of their care. MSK makes this possible and works with physicians and patients to provide all or part of the patient’s care.”

“Patients may have a difficult time finding highly specialized care in their communities,” Dr. Jewell adds. “They may be seeking access to clinical trials, oncologic surgery, specialized radiation, bone marrow transplantation, or a review of outside pathology slides to confirm a diagnosis and treatment plan. Physicians can use Collaborative Oncology to access such portions of cancer care at MSK and then the patient can return to their community where they can receive other elements of their cancer care from the referring physician.”

For Dr. Jewell and the Collaborative Oncology team, developing outside partnerships has been the fun part of this work. “We do wonderful, sometimes miraculous work at MSK,” adds Dr. Jewell. “If MSK and referring doctors can build relationships and together provide care and change lives for patients, then this program is a success.” 

If you would like to access collaborative oncology, you can email [email protected].