The Woman’s Board Transformation Fund for the Rush University Cancer Center
More Critical Than Ever in the Era of COVID-19
Cancer cells don’t shelter in place during a viral pandemic, and lifesaving oncology treatments can’t be postponed until a more convenient time. That’s why leaders from the Rush University Cancer Center have been deeply integrated into Rush’s response to COVID-19, making decisive operational changes to ensure patients have safe access to the most advanced cancer care. In the months since the initial outbreak, Cancer Center leaders have completed the equivalent of several years of work, including the development of clinical research studies that explore the scientific links between cancer and COVID-19. Informed by Rush’s nationally regarded expertise in data science and infectious diseases, the new cancer care protocols we’ve developed and shared in response to the pandemic are being emulated by cancer centers throughout our region.
The threat posed by COVID-19 will eventually subside. But for leading cancer programs including the Rush University Cancer Center, a complete return to the status quo is neither possible nor desirable. Prior to COVID-19, for example, providers around the country were grappling with the fact that the average time between a patient’s initial cancer diagnosis and their first cancer treatment had ballooned from 21 days in 2004 to 29 days in 2013. Rarely or never covered by insurance in the past, telehealth capabilities like video visits — invaluable tools for delivering care during the outbreak — are certain to permanently shift the health care landscape. And other long-term effects of the pandemic, such as an anticipated influx of later-stage cancer diagnoses resulting from delayed mammograms, colonoscopies and other preventive screenings, will reverberate for years to come.
The Woman’s Board Transformation Fund for the Rush University Cancer Center will provide Mia Levy, MD, PhD, and her leadership team with the resources to create an extraordinary “new normal” for cancer care across Rush University System for Health. Supporting bold initiatives that aim to reshape the way patients access cancer care, decrease delays to treatment, reduce risk in the post-COVID-19 era, and improve patients’ long-term outcomes, this fund will be invaluable toward delivering on Rush’s goal to become the preeminent destination for cancer care in the Chicago area.
As Rush and all hospitals recover from multimillion-dollar revenue losses incurred during the pandemic, funding from The Woman’s Board comes at a crucial time, enabling Cancer Center leaders to study and refine new models of care delivery, expand the use of data analytics, and prepare our multidisciplinary teams for success before moving to the new Joan and Paul Rubschlager Building in 2022. This vitally important work, accelerated and reaffirmed by the COVID-19 outbreak, remains focused on three overarching objectives, as well as a newly created fourth objective resulting from the crisis:
- Reducing time to first treatment: Evaluating and realigning our clinical enterprise will make us a national leader in slashing the amount of time between initial diagnosis and first treatment.
- Ensuring “the perfect visit”: Guided by the principle that comprehensive cancer care shouldn’t come at the expense of convenience, these initiatives aim to enhance the patient experience by addressing intake and access challenges; streamlining patient flow and navigation; reducing wait times; optimizing the use of clinical space and technology; and improving patient communications.
- Creating value and reducing costs of care for patients: In addition to optimizing workflows, combining procedures into the same patient visit and eliminating unnecessary tests, these initiatives look to reduce emergency room visits and inpatient readmissions to the hospital.
- Delivering safe care in the post-COVID-19 era: Patients with cancer are especially vulnerable to novel pathogens like the coronavirus, and Rush helped formalize a unique collaborative with other Chicago-area cancer centers who are working together to create new protocols that keep patients safe. Efforts toward this objective continue to ensure that patients are protected to the greatest extent possible.
The historic and unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced nearly every institution and every individual to adapt to a tremendous amount of change. Within the complex health care industry — not known for rapid transformation — the COVID-19 pandemic has shined a bright spotlight on nimble and forward-thinking organizations like Rush, which have demonstrated an ability to adapt and lead during this crisis.
In 2020, The Woman’s Board has a goal to raise $500,000 for The Woman’s Board Transformation Fund for the Rush University Cancer Center. This endowment will enable the Rush team to capitalize on these tailwinds and redefine excellence in cancer care locally and nationally.