By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – A partnership between North Mississippi Medical Center and a Tupelo-based oncology practice will bring all of the outpatient oncology infusion services under one roof.
North Mississippi Hematology and Oncology and its facility at Bridgepoint became an NMMC outpatient department effective Monday.
“This exciting and innovative partnership will enable us to coordinate all of our cancer services to best meet our oncology patients’ needs,” said Shane Spees, North Mississippi Health Services president and chief executive officer.
Over the next few months, all chemotherapy infusion services along with support services will migrate to the Bridgepoint building on South Gloster Street from the NMMC Cancer Center on Garfield.
“This is what we had in mind when we built this facility six years ago,” said Tupelo oncologist Dr. Julian Hill.
As part of the move, NMMC will create a sterile compounding lab in the Bridgepoint building.
In addition to offering more robust social work, nutritional counseling services and clinical research department, the consolidation will allow for cancer navigators, health care professionals trained in cancer care who serve as cheerleader and liaison to help patients.
“Navigation is very important in steering people through complicated multidisciplinary therapies,” Hill said.
At this time, radiation oncology services, which require a linear accelerator and heavily protected vault to contain the radiation, will remain at the Garfield Street NMMC Cancer Center, Bryant said. The infusion center will continue on the second floor, focused on non-oncology services.
The local change reflects the national trend. Changes in reimbursement policy are pushing medical oncology practices into large, integrated health systems, Hill said.
“There’s been tremendous consolidation,” he said.
For the past few years, a patient’s prescribed regimen has dictated where he or she received chemotherapy, according to Hill.
“It’s been based on the reimbursement for individual (chemotherapy) agents,” he said. In some cases, physicians were not getting paid enough to cover the cost of the medicines themselves.
The increase in out-of-pocket costs to Bridgepoint patients should be minimal, said Bryant, who noted patients will be able to tap into more robust services.
The physician group – Hill and his colleagues, Drs. Christopher Croot, Andrew Kellum, Charles Montgomery and Jiahuai Tan and Nurse Practitioner Ashley Gilliland, will contract with the hospital to provide services.
The other nurses and support staff at Bridgepoint and the group’s Starkville office are now NMMC employees.
“It’s just like a department at the hospital,” Bryant said.