Rick Dana Barlow, Editor

Fighting cancer is serious business. Not only for the patient, of course, but also for the clinicians who typically must satisfy the patient’s needs while balancing the technology to which they have immediate access with the latest technology available in the market. It represents an ongoing struggle fueled by payer reimbursement cutbacks, budgetary squeezings and expense explosions.
Thankfully, most, if not all, cancer treatment centers — whether outpatient or inpatient — strive to deliver optimal care, and many do the best they can for their patients. That’s why we launched the “Outpatient Excellence Award for Oncology Centers” this year (as well as similar awards for imaging centers and surgery centers in the future). We wanted to recognize the healthcare industry’s best and brightest by sharing their insights and success with you.
Launching such a project can be exciting and fun, but a lot of work. Implementing the process generates the same outcome with a bit more anxiety. Notifying the eventual winner and profiling them makes it all worthwhile — akin to sledding down the snow-capped mountain after the long arduous climb by foot.
For our inaugural “Outpatient Excellence Award for Oncology Centers,” our staff and selected editorial advisory board members evaluated four worthy finalists — each of whom deserve a spot on Outpatient Care Technology’s Oncology Center Honor Roll — based on submitted nominations outlining their accomplishments in six areas: Customer service, financial performance, innovation, operational efficiency, strategic vision and teamwork.
Describing each one in a few paragraphs really shortchanges who they are and what they do, but I would be remiss not to honor them — even though the winner is revealed on page 42 (the suspense may be killing you but don’t turn to that page just yet). With OPCT being a technology-focused trade magazine, it’s only fitting to encapsulate descriptions of each finalist in terms of a technology-focused media and merchandising phenomenon — “Star Trek.” (As a life-long, die-hard fan, please give me some latitude with the analogy.)
The Dale and Frances Hughes Cancer Center (East Stroudsburg, PA) can best be likened to the flagship of Star Trek’s space-exploring group Starfleet — the U.S.S. Enterprise. Just as the famed fictional starship comprises skilled and talented people operating futuristic technology, Hughes credits its vast array of cutting-edge equipment and phalanx of leading-edge clinicians with saving many lives and improving the lifestyles of many satisfied patients.
South Carolina Oncology Associates (Columbia, SC) resembles the technology-fortified command bridge of the starship Enterprise. The facility stressed its impressive automation capabilities that enabled it to improve charge capture and revenue retention, as well as generate administrative and operational benefits from an advanced electronic medical record system. All in all, SCOA presented itself as a cost-effective, patient-centered, well-run oncology machine.
Slidell (LA) Radiation Center seems like one of those embattled Starfleet outposts in the far reaches of the galaxy, attacked and battered by enemy forces (in this facility’s case, it was Hurricane Katrina), but never losing focus, beating back the odds, and continuing its mission with dedication, determination and above all else, high quality. One judge hailed its conversion to computers from archaic paper records; another called it “progressive,” in part because “not only have they recovered from a devastating catastrophe, they continued to grow at an impressive rate despite intense competition.”
The winner, however, exemplifies the San Francisco-based Starfleet Academy from which all space exploration missions extended. It showcased the pioneering and innovative spirit required of a trend setter, blending human knowledge and teamwork with mechanical support to treat and heal patients physically, mentally and emotionally.
Because of the caliber of the 2006 finalists this represented the closest and most challenging awards project in which I’ve ever participated. What a testament to quality healthcare and a testimony to oncology at its finest. Let’s hope next year’s crop leads to an even tougher decision.
See you in 60.

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