Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute Earns Innovator Award for On-Site Primary Care

October 26, 2022

Patients receive the right treatment at the right time, all in one place.

ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute has received the Association of Community Cancer Center’s (ACCC) 2022 Innovator Award for its person-centered model of care which embeds a primary care provider in the cancer center for patients undergoing treatment who do not have a primary care provider.

The Graham Cancer Center located in Newark, Delaware is among the first cancer programs in the nation to offer a program of this kind to patients.

“Earning the prestigious ACCC Innovator Award for our primary care practice is an accomplishment that belongs to our entire cancer care team, which has worked long and hard to develop this unique program designed to improve our patients’ long-term health,” said Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., Bank of America endowed medical director of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute.

Primary Care for Cancer Patients

Patients diagnosed with cancer frequently have one or more concurrent chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, COPD or diabetes.

Cancer treatment can make these chronic medical problems worse, so it is important for patients to continue to see a primary care provider during their treatment, which can also help eliminate unnecessary emergency department visits.

The new primary care practice builds on the success of the Graham Cancer Center’s Oncology Express Unit, a program that offers urgent care to cancer patients in distress during treatment.

“We conducted an informal survey that found as many as 15% of our patients did not have their own primary care provider,” said Cancer Program Clinical Director Cindy Waddington, MSN, RN, AOCN.

“Having a primary care provider onsite working closely with the entire cancer care team helps ensure that essential patient care beyond cancer treatment is not delayed,” Waddington said.

Patients are referred to the practice by their oncologists for any non-cancer health concerns. Since opening in January 2021, the program has received referrals to care for 234 patients.

“Primary care in oncology has been a long-standing challenge for cancer patients and cancer programs,” said Family Nurse Practitioner Debra Delaney, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC, FNP-BC, who provides primary care services at the Graham Cancer Center.

“Thankfully, we’ve been able to solve that challenge by addressing the whole person and promoting healthy living for the long-term.”

Delaney helps patients manage their chronic medical conditions by monitoring their labs, refilling prescriptions and coordinating and communicating about any referrals they many need.

“Following their cancer treatment, we help our patients transition to another practice, so they can continue to receive care for their primary care needs,” she said.

The ACCC featured the program on its BuzzBlog.

According to the ACCC, Innovator Award winners demonstrate the ability to advance the goals of improving access, quality and value in cancer care delivery, while also providing replicable solutions for other cancer programs and practices.