What is Convenient Cancer Care?

What is Convenient Cancer Care?

Our patients want and deserve convenience, but what is convenient?

I thought about this recently while evaluating a hospital patient. She’d been diagnosed recently and so wanted a plan NOW that she’d driven two hours for an earlier appointment. She’d wrestled with all the associated questions – Where do I go? Who’ll drive me there? Will I feel well enough for the trip? Is snow in the forecast? And what about the next appointment?

From my perspective, as a non-patient, non-afraid, non-recently-diagnosed person, a four-hour round trip sounded more inconvenient than waiting another two or three days for something closer to home.  Living in the Green Bay area I’ve  always taken for granted the convenience of having everything 10-15 minutes away.  Many health care clinics, 4 different hospitals, in fact I often have to argue with my family as to which grocery store we are going to.  Everything is an easy 10-15 minutes and perhaps if there is a little traffic maybe 20 minutes, however, my friends from large metropolitan areas find our idea of “traffic” laughable. But fear sometimes trumps mileage when you’re a cancer patient. I was glad we could get her in that day. I was even happier to tell her about our locations in Escanaba and Manistique, which she didn’t know about.

So was she. Her next appointments would only be twenty minutes away, and you could feel her relief – but there was a catch. She’d have to see a different doctor from now on. I was afraid that might be a deal-breaker.

We’ve got a dedicated team of providers at Green Bay Oncology, and they’re happy to spend hours commuting to ten different locations from as far south as Chilton to as far north as Manistique – and I mean who else is willing to do that? How valuable is that?

But not every provider can drive everywhere. The doc she knew didn’t go there, and she’d have to pick another.

Now when my insurance plan suddenly forces me to choose a different doctor (yes, it happens to providers too) I find that VERY inconvenient. It’s an outrage, and I’ve lived it. I was in full-on apology mode and I braced for her objection.

Know what? She didn’t mind, not at all in fact. She did the quick math (four hours vs. twenty minutes round-trip) and minded not at all. Convenience trumped familiarity.

Turns out, I maybe don’t know that much about patient convenience after all. Or maybe what I think is convenient isn’t always what they think is convenient.

But I’m not the important one here, and maybe we ought to let the patients tell us what is and isn’t convenient – and design our systems accordingly – rather than the other way around.