South Florida Hospital News
Monday July 22, 2019
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October 2010 - Volume 7 - Issue 4

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Cancer ... Fighting the Panic, Fighting the Disease, and Fighting for Truth

The “C” word…CANCER. Often, the first reaction this diagnosis invokes is panic. Panic can ease into determination to fight this disease, and health-care professionals serve an important role helping patients do exactly this. Sometimes, the panic can lead to a “grasping at straws” mentality and lead patients to seek alternative treatments. Oncology physicians, often, are wary of such alternative treatments. We feel that we want to offer our patients the very best chance of cure, and we believe that clinical trials and years of research have helped us to figure out what these best treatments are.

This may be accurate, or not. However, the physician mentality is grounded in strong scientific principles, evidence-based data, and a rigorous process of quality control that is often lacking with alternative approaches. There’s a de minimus standard associated with physician care (having achieved an M.D. degree at an accredited medical school, passing national board exams, having completed residency and fellowship training at accredited institutions, etc.). However, almost anyone without any real medical knowledge can set up an “alternative medicine” shop, sometimes financially exploiting patients during an emotionally distraught time.
 
In September 2010, CBS’s respected weekly TV documentary “60 Minutes” again exposed another “quack” clinic claiming to “cure” patients with historically incurable neurological diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis. This is frightening for patients, and health-care professionals alike.
 
Hospitals, in no small part, help raise the quality and standard of care. Obtaining staff privileges at any hospital typically entails a paperwork-laden process, so all degrees and qualifications can be checked by the Medical Staff Office, along with a peer-review, and interview by physicians. Such mechanisms are necessary, in that we as health-care professionals need to continue to police-ourselves, in order to maintain the trust of patients.
 
A by-product (intentional or not) of this trust, is finding Truth. Truth in that patients with cancer tend to put down their “walls” very quickly, sharing intimate details of their lives in the span of a short interview. They feel their time is very precious, and they expect – rather demand – a truthful dialogue and treatment approach from their doctors. They are on a quest for Truth – in its practical form (achieving a cure) and metaphysical one (re-examining their relationship with God, society, and the broader universe).
Indeed, this is an interesting role that hospitals help play in the process – one that is not typically pondered, as we are too busy optimizing service lines, investing in new technologies, balancing budgets, and negotiating better managed care contracts.
 
So, the next time you see your hospital CEO, consider thanking her/him for helping provide a critical infra-structure that helps achieve higher standards by tracking objective metrics, and meticulously (and sometimes annoyingly) demanding adherence to certain checklists and federal QA standardization processes. CEOs – also consider thanking your physicians for their dedication to science and belief that this knowledge can be shared to cure patients of cancer, and other ailments. Together, we will continue to improve health-care, and maybe get a little bit closer to the truth.
Dr. Anurag Agarwal is Medical Director of Radiation Oncology, Broward Health, and CEO, HealX Oncology. For more information, contact the North Broward Medical Center Dept. of Radiation Oncology at (954) 786-6838 or the Broward General Medical Center Dept. of Radiation-Oncology at (954) 355-5365.
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