Male cancer patient using telehealth

Telehealth can help cancer patients during coronavirus pandemic

By

Trying to navigate your cancer care journey is challenging enough without the added stress of a global pandemic.  Normally, you would schedule an in-person consultation with a physician to discuss your treatment options. Understandably though, many cancer patients now have reservations about going out in public during the coronavirus pandemic. Thankfully, telehealth provides a safe way for someone with cancer to continue moving forward with their care in a timely manner.

Provision CARES Proton Therapy implemented an expanded telehealth program in March 2020. This has allowed us to continue helping cancer patients in a safe environment, while also limiting the number of people at our centers. Since March, our physicians have conducted many telehealth consultations and virtual follow-up appointments. Our telehealth program allows someone who has been recently diagnosed with cancer to remain at home and speak directly to a physician through a video connection about their diagnosis, treatment options and next steps.  Our Cancer Care Experts can help patients through this process.

CANCER CARE PROVIDERS TURN TO TECHNOLOGY

The coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects of the healthcare industry. When the outbreak began to gain momentum in the United States, hospitals made operational changes to accommodate a potential influx of COVID-19 patients. Many general practitioners and specialists began to postpone well-visits and elective procedures. Specialty healthcare providers, including cancer treatment centers, also made adjustments to keep their patients, employees and visitors safe. Many of those providers, including Provision CARES Proton Therapy, turned to technology, broadening their ability to provide cancer care through the use of telehealth.

A recent survey indicated nearly half of all physicians are now communicating with patients through telemedicine, a stark rise from just two years ago. The survey, conducted by Merritt Hawkins, a physician search firm, in collaboration with The Physicians Foundation, sought to learn how COVID-19 is impacting physicians and how they are responding. It found that 48 percent of physicians are using telemedicine with patients. A similar study by The Physicians Foundation in 2018 had that number at just 18 percent.

The increase in telehealth usage was aided further after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced they would broaden access to Medicare telehealth services as part of the federal government’s emergency pandemic response.

CANCER & TELEHEALTH FROM A PHYSICIAN’S PERSPECTIVE

James Gray, MD, FACRO, Medical Director at Provision CARES Proton Therapy NashvilleSince the use of telehealth for medical appointments is becoming more common, we’re providing some firsthand insight into how it works and why it’s such a valuable tool for cancer patients. We asked the medical director of Provision CARES Proton Therapy Nashville, Dr. James Gray, a few questions about his experience with telehealth during the pandemic. Dr. Gray is a board-certified radiation oncologist who has spent 30 years studying cancer and helping patients navigate their cancer care journey.

What are your general thoughts on the use of telehealth for cancer care?

“I believe telehealth substantially contributes to our ability to communicate with patients.  While this applies across all areas of healthcare, it particularly applies to services which are restricted or to which there is limited access.  Proton therapy is a prime example of this.  I can interact with and advise patients who might not otherwise find it reasonable or even possible to travel to our center, or any other proton center.  Such patients may find that proton therapy has possible benefits for their circumstance and might make the trip worthwhile.”

What kind of feedback have you heard from cancer patients who’ve used telehealth?

“Generally good.  Telehealth allows us to help prevent a delay in the cancer patient’s process. As long as an in-person assessment is not necessary, then a telehealth consult allows me to counsel a patient quite well based on medical records and images forwarded to us in advance.  If equally feasible, an in-person visit is still superior for this communication, but a telehealth visit allows me to get the message across and answer the patient’s questions.”

What would you tell a patient who’s nervous about trying a telehealth appointment?

“I reassure the patient and family members that the telehealth visit can start the process of managing their cancer, but more interactions will follow in order to answer subsequent questions and direct further workup of their disease.  If the reason the patient feels nervous or uncomfortable is simply a technology concern, we can have our administrative staff reach out to them and their family to provide assistance.”

As a doctor, how has telehealth helped you during the coronavirus pandemic?

“It allows me to interact with more patients, and in a more timely manner, than I otherwise could due to visitation restrictions, or perhaps just logistics of travel for the patient.  I receive gratification from counseling patients through a rough time, always hoping to alleviate concerns and fears about issues they don’t understand and taking away some of the uncertainty of their next steps.”

Are there other ways cancer care providers are taking advantage of technology during the pandemic?

“Besides avoiding unnecessary contact between care providers and patients, physicians have suspended our in-person meetings called tumor boards or tumor conferences.  But there is a silver lining to this change because we have been forced to become better at virtual meetings, allowing us to exchange ideas and recommendations through audio/visual software.  Again, in-person meetings will likely always be preferable when reasonable, but the ability to attend the meeting virtually from your office or home has been given a big boost during this time.  Ultimately, comfort with this type of meeting attendance makes the meeting more accessible.  And the more we interact, the better we explore all options for our patients.”


To learn more about Dr. Gray and the other board-certified radiation oncologists at Provision CARES Proton Therapy, please visit Our Physicians page. If you are interested in learning more about proton therapy or scheduling a telehealth consultation, please call the Treatment Location closest to you and speak with one of our Cancer Care Experts.

Mason Strong:  One teenage boys fight against pediatric brain cancer brings together an entire community.

No parent wants to hear that their child has cancer.  Unfortunately, those were the words Ginger and Richard Cobble, parents of son Mason Cobble, 16, heard on Tuesday February 26, 2019.  Mason is a sophomore at Walker Valley High School in Cleveland, TN and an overall healthy child.  On Friday morning, February 22nd of 2019, Mason had a seizure and was later diagnosed with Glioblastoma multiforme GBM, a rare brain cancer in children.  He immediately had surgery to remove the tumor followed by proton therapy radiation at Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville.

Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation therapy that can be used in conjunction with pencil beam scanning technology.  The combination allows radiation oncologists to precisely target the tumor, minimizing the dose of radiation received to nearby healthy tissues and organs.  Because children and adolescents are growing, their tissue is more sensitive to radiation and its potential for negative side effects. The American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) ranks using proton therapy to treat solid tumors in pediatric patients with the highest importance (ASTRO Model Policy, 2014).  For Brain tumors, proton therapy can minimize negative side effects that include developmental delays, hearing loss, damage to salivary glands and hormone deficiencies.

A recent study presented at the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology Congress  (ESTRO) compared three types of radiotherapy for pediatric brain tumors and found that in pediatric brain tumors, pencil beam scanning proton therapy consistently delivered the lowest amount of radiation to the hippocampus and temporal lobes, areas of the brain that are vital for memory function.  Laura Toussaint, a PhD student in the Department of Medical Physics, presented the study and said, “alongside surgery and chemotherapy, radiotherapy plays an important role in treating brain tumors in children, but we need to protect children’s developing brains from unnecessary radiation.  The more we learn about how to effectively target brain tumors while minimizing the dose to other parts of the brain, the better we can preserve children’s cognitive abilities and quality of life after treatment.”

After seeking the opinion of several medical professionals, Mason Cobble started proton therapy treatment at Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville.  In a post on the Team Mason Strong Facebook page, Mason’s mom Ginger Cobble said, “It is such a blessing that Provision Proton Radiation Therapy is in Knoxville.  So thankful we get to treatment so close to home.”  The Chattanooga and Cleveland Tennessee community has pulled together to support Mason in his fight against cancer.  His story has been featured in the Cleveland Banner, on News Channel 9, on area radio stations and other media outlets.

On Wednesday May 8, 2019 Mason rang the bell as he graduated from his treatment at Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville.  He still has a fight ahead of him with more chemotherapy treatments and participation in a clinical trial at Duke, but the staff at Provision is thankful for him and are #TEAMMASONSTRONG.

Provision Team Members Participate in the National Association of Proton Therapy Convention

By

The National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT) held its seventh annual proton conference March 24-27, 2019, at The Biltmore Miami – Coral Gables, in Miami, Florida.  Founded in 1990, the National Association for Proton Therapy is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to work collaboratively to: (i) raise awareness of the therapeutic benefits of proton therapy among patients, providers, payers, policymakers, and other stakeholders, (ii) ensure patient choice and access to affordable proton therapy, and (iii) encourage cooperative research and innovation to advance the appropriate and cost-effective utilization of proton therapy. The annual conference allows proton centers from across the Unites States to convene and discuss how to advance awareness of the clinical benefits of proton therapy for cancer patients, provide education, and advocate for insurance coverage.

This year, almost 300 physicians, nurses, therapists, proton therapy directors, managers and others involved with or interested in learning more about the cutting-edge therapy attended the conference.  The 2019 program covered a variety of interesting and informative topics including: pediatrics, marketing, legislation, insurance and appeals, and clinical updates. Keynote speaker Barbara L. McAneny, MD, President of the American Medical Association, Anne Hubbard, Director of Health Policy for the American Society for Radiation Oncology, and guest speaker Senator Marco Rubio, all described the important role and impact of proton therapy in cancer care and the medical field at large from perspectives beyond those of proton providers. It was encouraging to hear proton therapy is gaining powerful advocacy and allies in positions within the medical field as well as in the upper levels of government.

Provision entities were represented by twelve attendees. Provision representatives participated as presenters and facilitators for several of the conference breakout sessions. Rebecca Bergeron, Dr. Ben Wilkinson, Jenni Turner, Elizabeth Vanzo, Nancy Howard, Niek Schroeder, and Laddie Derenchuk were all members of panel discussions and gave presentations on topics ranging from legislation and technical developments, to clinical best practices, patient interactions, and collaboration. This level of participation by Provision representatives further demonstrates Provision’s place as an industry leader.

In addition to the presentations, discussions, and panels, George Laramore, MD, PhD, FACR, FASTRO, of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Proton Therapy Center and the University of Washington, was awarded the 2019 NAPT Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his decades of pioneering work in the field of particle therapy. In announcing the award, NAPT Executive Director, Scott Warwick, stated “Dr. Laramore has brought honor and distinction to the field of particle therapy and we are grateful for the opportunity to award him for his endless dedication and perseverance to serve cancer patients across the country and the world.”

The NAPT announced that the 2020 National Proton Therapy Conference will be held April 25-29 in Nashville, TN at The Renaissance Hotel. Provision CARES Proton Therapy Nashville will host a Reception and Tour April 27th.  Nancy Howard, Vice President Marketing & Public Relations of Provision Solutions, will act as the 2020 Conference Chair.

The National Association for Proton Therapy is the voice for the proton community. As there are now 31 Proton centers in operation and 35 centers under construction or in development, it is important for all proton centers to form a strong alliance to advocate for patient access to proton therapy.   NAPT is the vehicle that will lead our alliance forward.

Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville Welcomes Radiation Oncologist Dr. Lavey

By

 

Ben Wilkinson, MD, Medical Director of Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville welcomes Robert S. Lavey, M.D., M.P.H. to the Provision CARES team.

Dr. Lavey has been board-certified in Radiation Oncology since 1988.  He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and earned his Doctorate in Medicine from Stanford University. He completed his residency in radiation oncology at Duke University and was awarded National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowships in the Stanford University Department of Medicine and the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.

(more…)

04-12-18_VolunteerAppreciation

Volunteer Appreciation in the “Volunteer State”

By

This week, April 15-21, Provision will celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Week by honoring our very own Proton Volunteer, Mrs. Sue. Sue and her husband retired to Knoxville from Washington, DC in 2001. She has been a volunteer for Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville since 2016 and has been filling the proton center with extra joy and smiles ever since. (more…)

NAPT Blog

Provision CARE Proton Therapy Attends the 2018 NAPT Conference

By

Content and information provided by Talbott Paynter, Director of Business Development for Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville

The National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT) held its sixth annual NAPT Conference March 25-28, 2018, at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch in sunny Scottdale, Arizona. Founded in 1990, the National Association for Proton Therapy is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to work collaboratively to:

  1. Raise awareness of the therapeutic benefits of proton therapy among patients, providers, payers, policymakers, and other stakeholders
  2. Ensure patient choice and access to affordable proton therapy
  3. Encourage cooperative research and innovation to advance the appropriate and cost-effective utilization of proton therapy.

The annual conference allows proton centers from across the Unites States to convene and discuss how to advance awareness of the clinical benefits of proton therapy for cancer patients, provide education, and advocate for insurance coverage. (more…)

WE CAN. I CAN

World Cancer Day: Provision CARES Proton Therapy Impacts of Cancer Care in East Tennessee

By

Provision has treated almost 2,000 patients with proton therapy in Knoxville, Tennessee. These patients traveled from all over the United States and the world to receive the most advanced form of cancer treatment. Proton therapy benefit from reduced side effects and improved quality of life compared to those who receive conventional radiation therapy or surgery.

Sunday, February 4th, is an important day in the eyes of many. Many people will be gathered with friends and family cheering on their favorite NFL team, watching the nation’s most expensive commercials, or snacking on chips and salsa. However, to Provision CARES Proton Therapy, February 4th means a lot more. It is World Cancer Day, a day to raise awareness about cancer and how it affects people and communities across the globe. (more…)

Innovative Cancer Treatment in Knoxville, TN

Celebrating the Four-Year Anniversary of the Most Innovative Cancer Treatment in the World and Available in Knoxville, Tennessee!

By

Many online blogs tell us the traditional 4th anniversary gift is flowers or fruit, but at Provision CARES Proton Therapy, we prefer cake! January 20th marks the 4th anniversary of operation for Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville (PCPTK) providing the most innovative cancer treatment in the world, proton therapy.

(more…)

Provision is first in Knoxville and the state of Tennessee to achieve ASTRO’s APEx Accreditation Certificate

By

After months of preparing and a thorough review process, we are proud to announce Provision CARES Proton Therapy-Knoxville is the first radiation facility in the state of Tennessee and the first private practice proton center to receive the official certificate of ASTRO’s Accreditation Program for Excellence (“APEx”).  APEx is an independent radiation oncology practice accreditation program developed by ASTRO, American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, based on a comprehensive set of sixteen evidence-based standards of radiation oncology practice.

(more…)

Provision dosimetrist ranks with best in planning contest

By

When his boss sent out an email encouraging those in the Provision medical physics department to participate in an international treatment planning competition, Kevin Kirby decided to give it a shot.

Sponsored by ProKnow, a radiation analytics and quality assurance company, the assignment of creating a radiation treatment plan for a head and neck cancer case attracted more than 200 entries.

In the final results, Kirby’s entry ranked 21st among 238 treatment plans, and first among proton therapy entries.

“A perfect score was 150,” said Kirby, a medical dosimetrist at Provision Proton Therapy Center. “I got 144.” The top score was 146.9.

He is the second Provision employee to place high in the ProKnow competition, known as the QADS Plan Study. Samantha Hedrick, a medical physicist, achieved third place out of 124 entries in 2013.

ProKnow develops and sells software to “help improve the standard of care in radiation oncology” through analytical tools and databases that help customers measure and track their planning efforts with a goal of identifying best practices for treating a variety of diseases.

The plan Kirby submitted was scored on a scale of 20+ criteria categories, with the ultimate goal of providing the most dose to the tumor versus the least dose to the surrounding, healthy parts of the body.

Kirby credited his treatment modality, proton therapy, with giving him an edge over competitors using conventional radiation treatment methods.

Proton therapy is particularly suited to treatment of head and neck cancer, because “you are dealing with some very critically sensitive areas to radiation, such as the spine and brain,” Kirby said. “Proton therapy is just one of the top ways to treat one of the most difficult areas to get to in the body.”

“Kevin is an outstanding dosimetrist.  Along with the rest of our staff, Kevin’s knowledge and work ethic has kept Provision’s planning capabilities at the forefront of radiation therapy,” said Ben Robison, Provision director of medical physics.

Kirby’s high score got him a phone interview with ProKnow in which he was asked about his personal background and more details about his planning methods. ProKnow is making the interview available via its website. Ranking so high among other treatment plans is quantitative validation that proton therapy and, specifically, the medical care at Provision, is best-in-class, he said.

“There’s a lot of hyperbole,” Kirby said. “This is a blind, metric product that shows our treatment is one of the best in the world. It just validates what we’re doing here.”