By focusing on relationships with referring physicians and offering comprehensive, convenient care for patients, leaders of the Duke Raleigh Cancer Center’s Genitourinary (GU) Clinic say they are working to establish a new care model for prostate cancer in Wake County.
Sundar Ramalingam, MD, a hematologist and medical oncologist, focuses primarily on patients with prostate cancer and other urologic malignancies. Duke’s team-based approach to prostate cancer offers many advantages for patients and referring providers, he says.
“As an academic medical center, we have access to the latest research and we offer patients opportunities to participate in clinical trials,” Ramalingam says. “Our patients also benefit from clinical assessments by our tumor board, which considers each situation individually as well as consultations with experts in every dimension of care for patients with prostate cancer.”
New treatments are being discovered regularly for diseases such as prostate cancer, Ramalingam says. “We are able to offer early access to some treatments. These potential therapies offer promise for future treatments.”
Ramalingam and colleagues also emphasize prompt access to GU clinic care following a cancer diagnosis. “We want patients to begin their care as soon as possible,” he says. “Access to prompt care is a significant factor in managing this condition.”
For Wake County patient referrals, call the referring provider team Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at 919-485-1900 or email OncologyReferral@Duke.edu.
The GU team emphasizes patient convenience, Ramalingam says. Patient visits are scheduled to take advantage of special clinics in which both medical and surgical specialists are available to discuss treatment plans. In addition to the physicians, the clinic’s care team takes a proactive approach to simplify the patient experience, Ramalingam adds.
“Our patient navigators and support team play a huge role in creating a patient-friendly clinic,” Ramalingam says. “The benefit to patient goes beyond convenience,” he says. “The extra care offered by medical assistants, advanced practice providers, nurses, and patient navigators is extremely important to patients and their families.” Patients may also consult with nutritionists, social workers, psychosocial counsellors and, when needed, financial counsellors.
“We offer a comprehensive, patient-friendly experience,” Ramalingam notes. “All the care is coordinated and focused for each patient and family.”
Building relationships with referring providers is a foundation of the GU oncology team. Ramalingam shares his cell phone number and communicates frequently with referring physicians by text and calls.
“We want the referring physicians to be involved in the care continuum,” Ramalingam says. “We communicate regularly with those physicians who refer to us, and we want to make sure our patients remain in the care of their referring team.”