The new seven-story building added to the east end of Cleveland Clinic's main campus consolidates cancer services into one space, in an effort to add convenience for patients, coordination for providers and, ultimately, better care.
The approximately $276 million Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center, which will begin seeing patients March 6, is located on the north side of Carnegie Avenue between East 102nd and 105th streets.
It fits with the system's patient-centered culture and focus on multi-disciplinary care, said Dr. Brian J. Bolwell, chairman of the Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute, who has been in his role for six years.
"One of the first things that I did and that we did as a group was to step back and say, 'What do we want cancer to be at the Cleveland Clinic?' " Bolwell said. "And it was pretty evident that we had opportunities to make the cancer programs more of their own organizational units."
That idea is evident in the new building, which is organized into "pods," each dedicated to a cancer type. For instance, all breast cancer patients would go to the same space, where doctors will come to them — instead of the patients having to stop by multiple offices — and where the nurses will become experts in that disease type.
Patients will meet with their doctors, such as medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgeons, in an exam room, then walk down the hall within the same pod to treatment rooms.
"We think having all three providers in the same spot is helpful not only for the patient's convenience, but for the doctors' ability to interact with each other," said Dr. Matt Kalaycio, chairman of the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute. "The questions get answered; there's more communication; there's less confusion about what we're going to do next."
In between a patient's exam and treatment, the doctors and nurses can meet to talk about the plan, which is an important step in translating discussions with patients to treatment, Kalaycio said. Right now, with the exam rooms and treatment rooms on separate floors, there's no easy way to communicate and little consistency for which nurses are working with which doctors.
"Now with these pods, with the treatment rooms attached … this pod of doctors will know this pod of nurses," he said. "They'll become a better treatment team."
Though it would be difficult to prove improved outcomes as a result of this method, fewer patients will be confused, anxious and depressed, Kalaycio said. He expects to see that reflected in patient experience scores within a couple of years.
This model is in line with a national trend of health systems shifting from the old-fashioned organizational schemes that divided a hospital into departments, said Mark Votruba, a professor at Case Western Reserve University who studies health economics.
The new approach, which Votruba calls condition-specific care, is more of an institute-based model that focuses on the continuum of care and providing the entire set of resources that a patient with a particular condition needs. It is easier for patients, he said, and easier for providers to work toward higher quality and better cost.
Being able to ensure different specialties work together easily was a main goal of the new building, Bolwell said. But also important, were design features, service amenities, natural light and the feel of the building.
Floor-to-ceiling windows drawing natural light are throughout the building; simple, colorful artworks dot the walls; and true to Clinic style, lots of white brightens the space.
The facility also houses many support services, including art and music therapy, a resource center, a private prosthetics fitting area and an area for prayer or meditation. There's also a boutique for patients with chemo-associated hair loss to receive wigs, caps and scarves, and a wellness center for facials and other aesthetic services.
"Everybody who's diagnosed with cancer is scared," Bolwell said, "so it is important to offer services to patients and families to help manage that stress."
Though not everyone will use the offerings, they're easily accessible and visible on the first floor to let people know they're available.
"The whole vibe of the building is extremely positive, and generates a sense of warmth and empathy," Bolwell said.
And, of course, aims to reflect the Clinic's reputation and quality. Bolwell said the patient-centric space will draw patients locally and beyond.
The new 377,000-square-foot building certainly helps with capacity, offering significantly more space than the current 200,000 square feet. It holds 126 exam rooms and 98 treatment rooms, compared to the current 74 exam rooms and 72 infusion chairs. The building holds the same number of linear accelerators (six) and a gamma knife suite.
This added space was much needed, Kalaycio said, at a time in which people with cancer are surviving more and longer, and in an area where the population is aging.
Care will become more nationalized over time as systems develop strong reputations and have the capacity to draw from beyond the region, Votruba said.
"As I see it, and how a lot of economists see it, is that you don't necessarily need every single hospital in the country trying to provide the cutting-edge treatment for every condition that exists in the world," he said.
And if cancer centers in Northeast Ohio begin to draw in more patients with nationally renowned care, Votruba said, "it's an absolutely great thing."
"Cleveland Clinic's new $276 million cancer hub boasts a 'pod' approach to care" originally appeared in Crain's Chicago Business.