Andrews Patel Hematology/Oncology has been providing central Pennsylvania residents access to high-level cancer care for more than 30 years and is now doing even more as part of Penn State Health.
Joshua Shipley, MD, medical oncology physician lead for Penn State Health Medical Group’s Community Practice Division, speaks with a patient at Penn State Health Medical Group – Andrews Patel Hematology/Oncology office.
Before Andrews Patel Hematology/Oncology joined Penn State Health in 2018, the practice was already known for providing advanced medical services to central Pennsylvania communities for more than three decades. Today, Andrews Patel and Penn State Health are taking advantage of their complementary strengths to create new, innovative clinical care models, expand access to clinical trials and continue their efforts to support patients in their communities. The application of personalized medicine that tailors diagnosis and treatment to patients’ individual genomic profile, promoting advancements in population health and delivering convenient, patient-centric care close to home are all integral to Andrews Patel and Penn State Health’s shared mission.
“It’s part of why we chose to join Penn State Health,” says Azlynn Swartz, RN, BSN, OCN, MHA, senior director of ambulatory practices for Penn State Health Medical Group’s Community Practice Division. “We saw that same vision and commitment to value-based care.”
Value-Based, Community Care in Action
Now known as Penn State Health Medical Group – Andrews Patel Hematology/Oncology, the practice has three locations, one in Harrisburg and two in Camp Hill. Founded in 1985, Andrews Patel has 10 physicians and five advanced practice providers among a staff of 78. Each office offers the convenience of on-site dispensing of oral medication, laboratory testing, and both oncologic and non-oncologic infusions, in addition to financial counselors and licensed social workers. The practice also provides inpatient cancer services at several local hospitals.
Azlynn Swartz, RN, BSN, OCN, MHA, senior director of ambulatory practices for Penn State Health Medical Group’s Community Practice Division
“Value-based care is a core component of our philosophy,” Swartz says. “With the signing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and the subsequent change in the direction of health care from volume-based to value-based, Andrews Patel made a conscious decision to really embrace that and be a participant in guiding the direction of the value-based movement. We did that by becoming an active participant in quality- or value-based pilots with our payers.
“We are involved in a medical home pilot with Aetna,” Swartz continues. “We’re also involved in a pathways program pilot with Highmark, and we participated in a medical home pilot with Capital BlueCross, as well as the Oncology Care Model pilot through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. We are very committed to value-based care, and we’re doing a lot of work to try to measure that value.”
Joshua Shipley, MD, medical oncology physician lead for Penn State Health Medical Group’s Community Practice Division
Ensuring patients get the right care at the right place and the right time is a fundamental goal for Andrews Patel and Penn State Health as a whole. “The practice follows a narrow subset of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines for its oncology treatment by choosing the most effective, least toxic and most cost-efficient care available,” says Joshua Shipley, MD, medical oncology physician lead for Penn State Health Medical Group’s Community Practice Division.
Another way that Andrews Patel is making patient satisfaction priority: a nurse triage line.
“If a patient calls in with any kind of symptom from their chemotherapy or cancer, they have access to a nurse,” Swartz says. “If the nurse is not able to answer right when they call, they receive a call back from that registered nurse with an effective response to their symptoms almost immediately.”
Efforts like these offer a strong level of support to patients and their families dealing with a cancer diagnosis and the associated treatment.
Expanding Access to Clinical Trials
Joining Penn State Health also brought Andrews Patel greater access to a wide variety of clinical trials. Penn State Cancer Institute (PSCI) specialists, based at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, have managed hundreds of clinical trials locally, allowing patients to stay close to home instead of traveling for advanced medical care options.
“Before we joined Penn State Health, we were actively participating in several pharmaceutical-based trials as a community practice,” Swartz says. “What we did not have was access to cooperative group trials because we were not part of a larger healthcare system. This was one of the qualities that was most attractive about Penn State Health. We’re increasing the convenience and access to clinical trials that are available at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center through PSCI.”
The availability of investigational drugs will also offer the practice’s patients new and potentially improved therapy that otherwise might only be available at large cancer centers, requiring significant travel time.
Cancer patients are considered survivors from the moment of diagnosis. Supporting the survivors in their community has been at the heart of efforts by all providers and staff of Andrews/Patel Hematology Oncology since the practice opened its doors. As part of Penn State Health, the practice continues to support education and awareness events across the region, from the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk to Penn State Cancer Institute’s annual Cancer Survivorship Celebration that takes place in Hershey each spring.
“These people aren’t just our patients — they’re our friends and neighbors,” Shipley said. “And our support doesn’t end at the end of a visit — our Penn State Health team continues to support our patients both behind the scenes with research and clinical trials and out at community events, where we can offer hugs and hold hands. This is what the full continuum of cancer care should look like, and we’re proud to provide it.”