Strategic Question: How can the community partner with Chester County Hospital to improve the patient experience through efforts to enhance healthcare navigation?
Implementation plan: Chester County Hospital, in partnership with SHiNE, will continue offer transportation options to enhance transitions of care for cancer patients.
SHiNE, an all-volunteer nonprofit, ensures that every patient at The Abramson Cancer Center at Chester County Hospital has a ride to and from their treatments and wellness appointments.
Brittany Fols, a social worker at Chester County Hospital, described the Abramson Cancer Center’s transportation assistance program as “invaluable.”
"It’s been remarkable to see just how much of a difference it can make for some of our patients and their families," she said. "Getting to and from their treatments and appointments can be a major source of stress for anybody. By eliminating that, they can focus more on their well-being."
Each year, 3.6 million people in the United States do not receive medical care because of transportation issues, according to a 2017 report by the American Hospital Association (AHA).
"Research has shown that only 20 percent of health can be attributed to medical care, while social and economic factors – like access to healthy food, housing status, educational attainment, and access to transportation – account for 40 percent," the report stated.
In other words, someone’s inability to get to a doctor’s appointment or a treatment is much more than a simple inconvenience. It potentially sets off a cascade of new concerns, including increased health expenditures and poorer overall health. Which is why efforts to overcome transportation barriers can become what the AHA describes as "health enablers."
How It Works
Virtually anyone along the care continuum at the Abramson Cancer Center at Chester County Hospital can identify a candidate for the transportation assistance program, but it’s most often social workers, like Fols. New-patient coordinators, patient service associates, and nurse navigators also identify those in need of the service. Patients can simply request a ride, too. Rides can be arranged on a one-time basis or throughout a patient’s course of treatment.
The rides are scheduled through a platform called Ride Health, which coordinates the trip assignments and delivers real-time updates every step of the way. The rides are provided by Uber. And the program is funded entirely by SHiNE. So essentially, the only thing required of the patient is to be ready at the appointed time. There’s no payment at the point of service.
It was the nonprofit’s largest expense last year, according to Stephanie Challis, BSN, RN, survivorship navigator at the Abramson Cancer Center at Chester County Hospital, who has served as the SHiNE’s chair for the last 10 years.
"We found that cancer patients sometimes had trouble getting to their appointments, and it wasn’t always a matter of means," Challis said of the program’s impetus. "It seemed to be especially true for those who had treatments every day. They weren’t feeling well, and their family members weren’t always available to drive them. It puts a huge burden on all involved. Getting treatment in a timely manner has a big impact on cancer recovery."
The program’s recipients agree. A recent patient at the Abramson Cancer Center at Chester County Hospital found the task found the task of securing a ride to appointments and his daily radiation treatments somewhat anxiety-inducing – especially because he was living out of town with family and unable to drive himself. When he shared this with his nurse navigator, she tapped into SHiNE’s transportation resources to arrange rides through SHiNE's program. This service enabled him to get to appointments and stay on schedule with his treatment. He was so grateful for this offering that he generously donated six months’ worth of rides to SHiNE after he completed his treatment.
A Constant Source of Support
SHiNE, which stands for Salons Helping in Neighborhoods Everywhere, was formed in 1998 when Maria McCool, owner of Calista Salon & Spa in West Chester, PA, was compelled to help support a staff member and some of her clients who were fighting cancer. She and her staff organized a fashion show and donated the proceeds to the hospital. They did this for several years as the show grew larger with each installment and generated more in donations.
When the fashion show became too large for McCool to coordinate, she handed over control of her nonprofit to the Chester County Hospital Foundation, which oversees fundraising on behalf of the hospital. Today, SHiNE otherwise remains as it was then: volunteer operated. That enables it to donate 98 percent of what it raises, according to Challis. In recent years, that’s amounted to more than $160,000 per year.
The transportation assistance program is one of several significant ways the organization has made its presence felt at the hospital. "We’ve really evolved in a big way over the last 15 years," Challis said. SHiNE funded the first nurse navigator at the hospital. It also covers the cost of personalized wigs and acupuncture for interested patients. In addition, the nonprofit provides organizational binders at the start of treatment and pays for massages and gym memberships, complete with oncology-certified specialists in both fields.
As Fols shared, "It’s truly amazing what they’ve done – and continue to do."