GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WLNS) – Spectrum Health is offering a new drive-thru treatment service for cancer patients.
In response to concerns regarding COVID-19, the Spectrum Health Cancer Center at Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion started providing the alternative option for care a few weeks ago.
While non-essential medical and dental procedures were put on hold until recently, some patients could not delay their treatment due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic, cancer didn’t take a day off,” said Melissa Hibdon, clinical manager for outpatient chemotherapy infusion at Spectrum Health. “Cancer didn’t care if there was a pandemic.”
The idea for the drive-up service, which has served nearly 25 patients since April 21, stemmed from a concern shared by a patient of Lori Hinken, a chemotherapy nurse.
The patient, as were many others, was afraid of increased exposure to COVID-19 during appointments in preparation for her cancer treatments. She was uncomfortable getting labs drawn in a local facility where people were getting diagnosed with the virus.
Hinken brought up the concern during a brief daily meeting with the nursing staff. It prompted Seay Huyge, a charge nurse within the outpatient infusions clinic, to suggest they complete services through patients’ ports from their cars.
A port is a small device typically implanted under a patient’s skin on their chest which is then connected to a vein, Hibdon explained.
This device allows for medicine and hydration to be delivered as well as blood to be drawn out.
“Our chemotherapy patients are really our most immunocompromised patients and if we could even limit the exposure that they would have walking into the building and standing next to someone in an elevator, then we thought it was the right thing to do,” said Hibdon.
Under the guidance of Hibdon, the team of nurses consulted hospital management as well as infection prevention and risk management experts before implementing the drive-up port services.
The team then scouted a location to operate the service from, eventually landing on the second floor of the pavilion’s parking garage.
This location is described as safe, near an entrance, easy to find and provides shelter from other patients and the elements.
The nurses transport all necessary materials, including a workstation on wheels with access to electronic medical records, a supply cart on wheels and even a step stool to ensure the nurses can assist the port of patients in larger vehicles.
“(My staff’s) willingness to jump in and show compassion and innovation, it amazes me every day,” said Hibdon.
Once the team launched the drive-up service, one of the first procedures offered was a port flush, during which a saline solution is used to clean the port of a patient in remission and not receiving cancer treatments.
Spectrum Health is now offering services for pre-chemotherapy patients, port blood draws and a few types of injections. Nurses are operating the service for a half-day on Tuesdays and Fridays by appointment only.
Patients still receive chemotherapy infusions within the clinic. For those who have online consultations scheduled, the drive-up service has been helpful in limiting contact and exposure to COVID-19, said Hibdon.
In addition to limiting risk for COVID-19 exposure for immunocompromised patients, Spectrum Health’s drive-thru cancer treatments have been beneficial for those with mobility issues. Higdon said the risk of fall or injury is decreased when they do not have to access and navigate the building.
Nurses are also saving time on procedures. They now complete registration once the patient leaves their home and is in transit to Spectrum Health as opposed to in-person.
Hibdon believes the drive-up service will continue to be available throughout and beyond the pandemic due to its efficiency and benefits for both patients and staff.
More information on Spectrum Health’s response to COVID-19 can be found at spectrumhealth.org/covid19.
This article is adapted from MLive.