An Oncology Setting That Fits Your Needs
First of all, if you live in the Washington Metropolitan area you are very lucky your options are numerous and quite good across the board.
In general, a tertiary care center (university) is an ideal setting for “special procedures” like transplants or experimental protocols (although remember not all protocols are created equal, some are good and promising while others are not). Also if you have a very rare cancer, an academic center is probably a better fit for you.
Notoriously, tertiary cancer centers are inefficient. Often it takes weeks just to get an initial consultation and once you get seen, it takes weeks to actually start the therapy. Also, patients do not realize that the day-to-day care is in the hands of doctors-in-training so if you have “special needs” this is not an ideal setting for you.
Hospitals nowadays are being swallowed by large management companies that are trying to increase revenues. Outpatient infusion centers are mushrooming all over the place with comfortable lounge chairs and friendly nursing staff. What you do not realize is that hospitals can charge ten times more for a drug compared to private practitioners. My patient, J.K., received the drug gemzar in my office for $1,200, but was charged $12,000 when his therapy was administered in a hospital's infusion center. This is very important to know because if your insurance company pays only a portion of your charges, you will be left with a huge out-of -pocket expense. Also, it is very time consuming to get therapy in an infusion center. By the time you are registered, have your blood drawn, chemotherapy is mixed and you actually get your treatment, what would be a one-hour procedure in an office setting becomes a 5-8 hour ordeal, which is fine if time is not an object.
Next month's article will focus on additional options including private office settings. I hope you find this information helpful when choosing the right oncology setting for you.