Op-Ed

Partnership brings access to cutting-edge research and treatment for cancer patients

Dr. Jessica Croley is medical director of CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Centers
Dr. Jessica Croley is medical director of CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Centers



In the most recent America’s Health Rankings from the United Health Foundation, Kentucky ranks the highest in relation to cancer deaths. Cancer is second only to heart disease in the listed cause of death across the United States. Despite advances in cancer treatment, there is still an unmet need for better access and expertise for cancer care in central and eastern Kentucky.

CHI Saint Joseph Health has a long history of serving cancer patients. Our cancer care program has grown exponentially – not only in numbers, but also in quality and comprehensiveness of services that we provide. In fact, our cancer care program has been recognized by a number of organizations focused on quality of cancer care including the Commission on Cancer as a Comprehensive Community Cancer Program; the National Cancer Institute as a Community Oncology Research Program; the Lung Cancer Alliance as a Screening Center of Excellence; the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers; and the American College of Radiology for Breast Imaging and Radiation Oncology Practice.

We announced last week that CHI Saint Joseph Health was entering into an affiliation with Cleveland Clinic, which is ranked No. 6 in the nation in the 2019-20 Best Hospitals for Cancer by U.S. News and World Report. This affiliation didn’t happen overnight, and the process wasn’t automatic.

CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Centers in Lexington underwent an in-depth review by members of the Taussig Cancer Institute at Cleveland Clinic. They assessed all facets of our oncology practice – including nursing, pharmacy, medical oncology, radiation, research and supportive care services, assuring best practices in all areas of care.

The affiliation between CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care and Cleveland Clinic helps ensure evidence-based, high quality care to each and every patient we see. It grants us access to cutting-edge research and treatment methodologies. It provides our physicians peer-to-peer consultation with world-class subspecialists in real time to determine treatment plans for difficult cases and most importantly, ensures the patient that they are receiving the best possible treatment, right here at home.

As physicians, we want the best for our patients. For many of our patients, travel for second opinions is unattainable, either because of expense or physical limitations. Even when it is possible, travel compromises quality of life and time with family. This affiliation allows patients access to a high level second opinion without leaving their home community. In cases where specialized care at the Cleveland Clinic would be beneficial, we can seamlessly transfer care and coordinate with the care team for you.

With this new affiliation, our cancer care centers have added to our already strong support team, including onsite social workers, financial counselors, dieticians who are all intimately involved with the patient throughout their cancer journey. We have recently added referral coordinators devoted solely to oncology services and facilitating second opinions with the Cleveland Clinic. These coordinators are available to walk patients through the referral process and assist with scheduling to make it easier to access vital patient care.

Finally, we have a robust network of support groups for various patient populations (women’s breast cancer, men’s prostate cancer, patients dealing with advanced cancer, and caregivers’ support).

The future of our cancer program is closely tied to the Cleveland Clinic affiliation, with a focus on:

  • Access to clinical treatment pathways to optimize delivery of care;
  • Better utilization of local clinical trials and access to countless other trial opportunities for our patients at Cleveland Clinic;
  • Telehealth and “remote” consultation services with subspecialists;
  • Expanded expertise to continue to provide extraordinarily high quality care.

We are excited about what the future will bring for our cancer care program and, most importantly, to our patients. At CHI Saint Joseph Health, we are called to serve, and this affiliation affords us countless new ways to do just that. Every life deserves world class care, and we believe we are stronger together.

Dr. Jessica Croley is medical director of CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Centers

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