Archives for May 2014

Ensuring Accuracy in Your Lab Results

Ensuring Accuracy in Your Lab Results

When patients come into the Green Bay Oncology office, many times they are required to have blood taken for one or more tests.  How can we be assured that the testing is accurate? The answer is through quality assurance.

The phlebotomist (person who takes the blood) greets the patient and identifies them by asking for their name and date of birth. That information is compared to the labels that have been printed specifically for that patient.   Blood is drawn from the arm, finger, hand or a catheter inserted directly into the vein.  Labels are immediately affixed to the tubes.

The tests are then performed on the blood in accordance with a strict array of company policies and government rules which include stringent quality control.  Periodically, the lab is tested and inspected by an outside regulatory agency.   They will check to see if we have done and documented these actions in accordance with the regulations.

The accuracy of the instruments we use is checked daily by running control samples with known values. Only after the control values are correct and the instrument has passed this test, will the patient’s blood sample testing be performed. The result of the patient’s blood test is then reviewed by a laboratory professional after which it goes directly into the patient’s chart electronically, avoiding error caused by incorrect transcription.

Green Bay Oncology East and West Green Bay sites have laboratories within the clinics to assure the quickest, most efficient lab results possible.  Both are equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation, operated by a knowledgeable staff.  Green Bay Oncology also has sites outside of Green Bay, which include Sturgeon Bay, Oconto Falls, Iron Mountain, Marinette, Escanaba and Manistique.  We rely on the proven skill and commitment to quality of each facility we partner with in those communities.

The Green Bay Oncology Lab staff is passionate about quality assurance for our patients, and we pride ourselves on strict quality control.

Navigating the Insurance Maze

Navigating the Insurance Maze

Healthcare costs are a key concern for people with cancer. Patients and family members need to determine how they will pay for treatments. Some patients do not have health insurance. Even for those with coverage, certain treatments and charges may not be included or paid in full. Patients may need help filing or appealing health insurance claims. Additionally, patients need to plan for indirect costs, including lost time from work, added child care and transportation and travel expenses.

There are steps you can take to manage your finances before, during and after treatment. For example, you can:

  • Speak with your physician and ask for a timeline for your treatment
  • Learn your insurance plan’s oncology benefits, mail-order pharmacy benefits, preauthorization, referral and claims appeal rules
  • Assess your anticipated medical expenses and whether your income might be reduced
  • Consider reducing unnecessary expenses
  • Speak with creditors early if you expect difficulty making payments
  • Check to see if you have home mortgage or car payment insurance to help cover expenses during your illness
  • Take advantage of disability plans if needed during your treatment and recovery
  • Seek access to co-payment programs that help insured patients meet their pharmaceutical co-payment expenses

Health insurance helps pay for costly medical treatments and can protect patients and their family from financial hardship. There are different types of private and public health insurance programs. Some people have private health insurance coverage either through an employer (often called a “group plan”) or through an individual policy that they have purchased. Some patients qualify for public or government-funded health insurance programs, including Medicare or Medicaid. The eligibility requirements and enrollment process can be complicated, but financial case workers and social workers can advise and help patients through the process. The single most important consideration for enrolling in public programs is to apply as soon as patients think they may qualify for programs. Many programs have waiting lists or waiting periods before covered benefits and services take effect.

Millions of people living in the United States do not have health insurance or do not have enough medical coverage. Some people may lose their insurance coverage or let it lapse when they leave or change jobs. Others who cannot afford the cost of private insurance may not realize that they qualify for government programs or other types of assistance. Or, patients may find out after they are diagnosed with cancer that their insurance does not cover the prescription drugs or treatment they need.

It is important for patients with health insurance to know what is covered and how to protect their benefits. This is not only important for newly diagnosed patients, but also for survivors who will need follow-up visits.

There are steps that patients and family members can take to manage their health finances and get the most from their coverage. They can:

  • Keep a copy of all claims and related paperwork, such as letters of medical necessity, bills, receipts, requests for sick leave, as well as a written record of phone conversations with insurers
  • Check health policies often to determine what services and medications are covered
  • Obtain proof of previous health insurance coverage from former employer and/or insurers
  • Pay premiums on time and in full to avoid lapse in coverage
  • Learn what to do if a claim is denied
  • Know the laws designed to protect patients and provide continuation of medical coverage (for example, COBRA, HIPAA, Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act)

Cancer survivors who lose, leave or change jobs may be eligible to remain in their employers’ plan under COBRA, a federal act that requires some companies to offer continuous health coverage for up to 18-36 months. Even though individuals must pay the entire premium (including the portion that the employer used to pay on their behalf), COBRA may be a better choice than an individual medical insurance plan. The COBRA plan may not be the least expensive option but is will provide continuation of coverage.

Feel free to contact the social worker or financial counselor at the oncology clinic for assistance in answering your questions or directing you to the appropriate resources. The following websites are resources to guide you if you have insurance questions as well:

A Thank You to Our Nurses…

A Thank You to Our Nurses…

May 6th is National Nurses’ Day. Thank you to every nurse at Green Bay Oncology. You demonstrate our core values every day with your knowledgeable care and compassion for our patients.  I appreciate your dedication to our organization and for setting a standard we can all look up to.  Once again, thank you.

Happy Nurses’ Day

Happy Nurses’ Day

In two months, a new crop of medical school grads will show up for their first day of internship. They’ll be dropped, diapered and sniveling, onto a hospital ward and expected to go fix sick folks. 

That first year, the smart ones will learn to practice medicine from the nurses (not the other doctors). The truly lucky ones, the ones who find an oncology nurse to mentor them, will learn all they’ll ever need to know about dedication and compassion. 

Why are oncology nurses such a special breed? Because they choose to work in a field most people shun. And it’s intense. It’s hair loss and fever, fear and fervent hope, victory and tears all day every day. It’s not for the weak. 

Oncology nurses are highly intelligent, and they’ve got compassion gritted under their fingernails. They care, truly care, about their patients – probably more than it’s safe to. They pay a high price for it. But they wouldn’t choose anything else. 

This May, spend some time with an oncology nurse if you can. Watch what they do for a living. And prepare to be moved. 

Happy Nurses’ Day.

All-inclusive Lung Cancer Screening & Consultation

All-inclusive Lung Cancer Screening & Consultation

A better chance of catching lung cancer early. A better chance of beating it.

Now available for eligible participants ages 55-80 with 30+ pack years of smoking.*

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, and its symptoms often appear when the cancer is in a more advanced stage. Our Low-Dose CT Scan works to detect lung cancer earlier and with lower exposure to radiation. Plus, unlike most other screenings, participants receive a full consultation before the screening and after the results from our highly trained and supportive providers, all for the special self-pay rate of $250.**

To find out more or to schedule a lung cancer screening for yourself or a family member,

call 920-884-3135 or 866-884-3135.

*30 pack years is equivalent to smoking: 2 packs per day for 15 years, 1 pack per day for 30 years, 1/2 pack per day for 60 years.

**Health Savings Account (HSA), cash, check, and credit card accepted at the time of screening (not currently covered by most insurance).

Doctor’s order not required.

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You Have Questions, Call Us For Answers

You Have Questions, Call Us For Answers

With all the technological advances we have today, the basic telephone is still very vital to our everyday life. At Green Bay Oncology we use a phone triage process. Anyone who calls the clinic will be greeted by one of our receptionists at either of the Green Bay locations. A call can be as simple as transferring a caller to another staff member or as complex as a new patient referral.

The three to four receptionists managing incoming calls during regular business hours answer calls in the order they are received. These messages are then entered into the secure electronic health record (EHR) in a message similar to an e-mail.

Once this message is received, the receptionist determines the appropriate department to respond to the message. More often than not, with the large variety of reasons a person may call, this message gets sent to the phone triage nurse. There are three to four registered nurses (RN) that manage these messages in order of both the urgency and time received. Many calls related to appointments, treatment, side effects, and prescription refills can be handled by a nurse reviewing the patient chart and then answered relatively quickly. If further medical advice is needed from a provider (physician or nurse practitioner), they will receive a message either electronically or via phone. They will then respond back to the RN, who will complete any steps, such as refilling a prescription, and then get back to the caller. The more information the caller can provide initially the better, as this can expedite the whole process.

Calls arrive steadily throughout the day while GBO staff members are also managing the patient care within the clinic. Providers typically have full schedules and answer their messages before they start their day, between patients, on their lunch hours and after hours. Every call is important and will be responded to with full attention of the team. Know that emergency situation calls always take precedence over those requiring less urgent attention. For example, a patient who is experiencing worrisome side effects would take precedence over a routine prescription refill at that moment. This is what the triage system is set up to do, so that every patient and every situation is given the time and attention that is needed. The number of calls per day varies, but it is not uncommon for over 50-75 calls to be active at one time in a day.

GBO has eight clinic sites, and over 5,000 patients. We at GBO work with many other medical facilities to coordinate the best care for our patients whether in person or via phone.

When you have questions, our telephone triage team is ready to help. Call us at 920-884-3135.