A new Duke Cancer Institute (DCI) oncology access center has simplified the physician referral process and accelerated scheduling for patients, including offering appointments within 48 hours at Wake County locations.
The improvements are the result of a dedicated concierge team trained to ensure a comprehensive initial visit with a Duke oncologist. The specialists schedule clinical tests, appointments, secure medical records, and remain in contact with referring practices. Team members also offer guidance in Spanish.
The concierge innovation is one part of DCI’s commitment to improve referral communication while enhancing and simplifying the patient experience. Launched as a pilot project in Wake County, DCI leaders want to expand the access center model to all Oncology sites.
Medical oncologist Neeraj R. Agrawal, MD, director of Wake County Oncology for DCI, says improving relationships with referring providers has been a key mission for both clinical teams and access center members.
“We are working to make sure referring providers feel they are true partners with our oncology team,” Agrawal says. “With our oncology access center, we can ensure a successful, prompt referral with a single call. Referring physicians can now participate in a seamless, two-way communication loop that provides frequent updates about their patients.”
Multidisciplinary care, clinical trial access
The oncology access center’s commitment to offer appointments within 48 hours at Wake County locations accelerates diagnosis and treatment, Agrawal says, and is an important part of the team’s clinical approach.
In addition to comprehensive clinical care in a multidisciplinary setting with surgical, radiation, and medical oncologists reviewing complex cases, patients have access to more than 30 clinical trials.
For patient referrals, call the referring provider team Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at 866-385-3123 (1-866-DUKE-123) or email OncologyReferral@Duke.edu.
Making needed changes
Jennifer Kennedy-Stovall, director of DCI Access Operations and Patient Experience, has championed the effort to identify and correct referral challenges. Kennedy-Stovall came to Duke in 2019 from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
“We acknowledge that the referral process for oncology care has sometimes been difficult for providers,” Kennedy-Stovall says. “They need the process to be easy and want their patients to receive care quickly. We have heard the criticism and feedback, and we have made changes to meet the needs of our partners.”
The concierge team improves access, response time, and communication with referring practices, Kennedy-Stovall says. Ensuring effective, efficient oncology care depends on the completion of multiple steps before the initial oncologist appointment.
“Duke oncology care is distinctive because our team is conducting a medical review in the background to ensure that when the patient arrives for the visit, we have prepared as thoroughly as possible,” Kennedy-Stovall says.
The review includes securing medical records, images, and pathology slides to help the oncologist recommend a treatment plan during the first appointment. Another key step is scheduling the patient with the appropriate oncologist.
“We have highly trained specialists who not only deal with gastrointestinal cancer, but specifically deal with patients with cancer that has metastasized to the liver for example,” Kennedy-Stovall adds.