In July, Haoming (Carl) Qiu, M.D., assistant professor of Clinical Radiation Oncology, officially began leading a new Metastatic Cancer and Palliative Radiation Therapy service within the Department of Radiation Oncology at UR Medicine's Wilmot Cancer Institute.
The focus for more than one-third of Radiation Oncology patients is palliative, meaning the goal is to manage pain and other cancer-related symptoms, whether or not the cancer is curable. Previously, unless patients already had an established relationship with Radiation Oncology, those who might benefit from palliative radiation therapy were referred to the on-call Radiation Oncologist. This approach sometimes compromised patient care due to the work-load of on-call radiation oncologists.
“The on-call doctor already has a full day’s schedule, so these often medically complicated patients were added on at the last minute,” Qiu said. “It was tough for the provider in such a hurried arrangement to communicate completely and effectively with the patient, the family, and the other collaborating physicians and caregivers. As a result, a lot of times communication wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. That can result in confusion and frustration for the patient and family, with such serious implications as decreased patient satisfaction, longer-than-necessary hospital stays and a host of other issues.”
Moving forward, the Metastatic Cancer and Palliative Radiation Therapy service will be the designated radiotherapy service for patients needing non-urgent palliative radiotherapy, while the on-call radiation oncologist will continue to manage oncologic emergencies.
Radiation Oncology and Palliative Care teams have been working closely for years, but this new service aims to improve collaboration by better coordinating patient care.
“Many of the patients we Palliative Care specialists care for have pain and other symptoms which can improve with radiation therapy. So it makes sense that we have cultivated a rich working relationship with our Radiation Oncology colleagues, now three years strong. It’s one of the very few such formal collaborations in the nation,” said Robert Horowitz, M.D., Chief of Palliative Care at UR Medicine. “Dr. Qiu has been instrumental since the beginning of our unique partnership, and I applaud his commitment to further strengthening it, with the clear goal of providing optimal and coordinated care to our community’s seriously ill patients.”
At this time, the program is available at Strong Memorial Hospital. Patients can be referred to the palliative radiation therapy service by their oncology team.