Allegheny Health Network Expands Care for Cancer Patients, Opening Western Pennsylvania’s First Oncology After-Hours Clinic

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Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network is opening the area's first after-hours clinic for oncology patients, treating the side effects of cancer and its treatment.

Dr. David Parda

"With the opening of the Extended Hours Oncology Clinic, AHN is filling a gap in the continuum of care for one of our most vulnerable populations." David Parda, MD, Chair, Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute

Allegheny Health Network (AHN) has opened western Pennsylvania’s first after-hours clinic for cancer patients, designed specifically to address their unique needs outside the emergency room setting.

With the opening of Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute Extended Hours Oncology Clinic, AHN is at the forefront of an emerging national trend of expanded, after-hours care for cancer patients, many of whom will visit an emergency room at some point during their treatment or recovery. These patients need timely care in the appropriate clinical setting in order to maintain their wellness and quality of life, and optimize their symptom management.

Embedded in the West Penn Hospital’s Mellon Pavilion Medical Oncology Clinic in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood, the clinic will initially be open Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and staffed by a certified registered nurse practitioner, a registered nurse and a medical assistant, all trained in oncology-specific protocols and working under the direction of an oncologist.

“The side effects of treatment can pose considerable difficulty for cancer patients. In 2014, western Pennsylvania emergency rooms logged nearly 3,000 visits from cancer patients,” said David Parda, MD, Chair, Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute. “With the opening of the Extended Hours Oncology Clinic, AHN is filling a gap in the continuum of care for one of our most vulnerable populations.”

Side effects can significantly decrease quality of life for cancer patients. These symptoms – many of which worsen in the evening hours - may include pain, fever, fatigue, upper respiratory infections, coughing, painful mouth sores that make it difficult to eat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dehydration and rashes.

While a trip to the emergency room will continue to be the best option for cancer patients with life-threatening symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, the ER can be risky for cancer patients, who may have compromised immune systems. Having a designated treatment space for cancer patients is also expected to decrease wait times for treatment.

Care for patients doesn’t end with a visit to the extended hours clinic. Clinic caregivers will connect patients with services that will ensure a smooth transition of care from clinic to home and community, services such as AHN’s Healthcare@Home and Supportive Medicine Service. AHN’s philosophy is that all cancer patients should have access to supportive care, regardless of their disease stage.

A 48-hour post-discharge follow-up call from a nurse navigator to all patients will ensure that needed services have begun and help facilitate any additional patient needs.

“The extended hours clinic for oncology patients is expected to optimize clinical outcomes, reduce hospital admissions and readmissions, expand access to at-home, supportive and palliative care, and enhance the patient experience while reducing the cost of care,” Dr. Parda said. “It is a positive step forward for healthcare in western Pennsylvania, and most importantly, for our patients.”

Alex Brennsteiner, Clinical Program Manager, Highmark Home and Community Services; Crystal Costanza Ross, Director of Program Development, Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute, and Marjie Leslie, Director of Clinical Services for Allegheny Clinic Medical Oncology played leading roles in the planning and development of the oncology after-hours clinic.

The Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute Extended Hours Oncology Clinic can be accessed via the Mellon Pavilion entrance at 4815 Liberty Ave. or the parking garage at the corner of Liberty Avenue and South Millvale Street. A staff member will escort patients to the clinic.

The clinic is open only to patients being treated for cancer at Allegheny Health Network. Appointments are required and can be made only through designated oncologists. Those wanting more information about the Extended Hours Clinic may contact Joann Straessley at 412-359-3559.

About Allegheny Health Network
Allegheny Health Network is a western Pennsylvania-based integrated healthcare system that serves patients from across a five state region that includes Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The Network’s Cancer Institute offers a complete spectrum of oncology care, including access to state-of-the-art technologies and new therapies being explored in clinical cancer trials. The Network’s radiation oncology program is the largest in the country and is accredited by the American College of Radiology. AHN also has a formal affiliation with the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, one of the nation’s 41 comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute, for research, medical education and clinical services.

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Stephanie Waite