November 18, 2021

Team receives Association of Community Cancer Centers Innovator Award

A team of Vanderbilt employees have received and award for implementing a streamlined follow-up protocol for patients who may not know they have cancer.


by Tom Wilemon

A multidisciplinary team of Vanderbilt employees received an Innovator Award from the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) for implementing a streamlined follow-up protocol for patients who may not know they have cancer.

The protocol is for patients treated in the Emergency Department after being injured or for some other reason with incidental imaging findings that may be indicative of cancer. The new, expedited process, which was implemented last year, established a clearly defined chain of responsibility for following up on these incidental findings. It utilizes eStar, VUMC’s Epic-based software, to send automatic alerts when patients are identified who need the diagnostic care.

“Prompt follow-up allows for earlier diagnosis and treatment — improving care and the patient experience. From a business perspective, the cancer program realized financial gains through additional visits, procedures, radiology scans and/or labs,” the ACCC noted in a press release announcing the award.

The Vanderbilt team was one of seven ACCC Innovator Award winners at the organization’s 38th National Oncology Conference, which was held virtually Nov. 9-10.

Clinicians with both the Emergency Department and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) had recognized the need to implement a more streamlined process to ensure that patients with incidental findings that may be indicative of cancer didn’t fall through the cracks. Nick Garland, MS, senior project manager in VICC, and Katie Klar, RN, assistant nurse manager in VICC, shepherded the initiative, which required planning and coordination between leaders of both departments.

The new streamlined system meets patients’ needs by matching them with the person who can best handle their cases. If the patient is visiting Nashville, an Emergency Department case manager routes that person to a cancer center where they live. If the patient lives near a Vanderbilt hospital, a member of the V-ISTA team (Vanderbilt-Ingram Service for Timely Access) reaches out to the patient to schedule the most appropriate follow-up appointment.