ARTIST Program: Collaborative effort brings high-quality care, decreases time to treatment

June 1, 2018 03:36 PM

When a patient first hears that they have been diagnosed with cancer, a lot goes on in their mind- including questions and uncertainties like “now what?”

Until recently, the answer to that question in some lung cancer patients was “more testing” since their initial minimally invasive biopsy may not have completed their staging or provided enough tissue for a full array of diagnostic information.

“What we noticed several years ago was that we had enough tissue to make the initial diagnosis,  but we often times did not have adequate residual to then send off for the other molecular studies that today is standard of care,” said Dr. Robert Christman, “so you’re sitting at home knowing you have cancer but waiting to start treatment.”

A truly collaborate effort involving eight Spectrum Healthcare Partners physicians, the SHCP Quality, IT, and  Radiology Support teams, as well as 16 external physicians and staff members helped create a pathway to cut into the time between first abnormal imaging and first cancer treatment in these patients. The Abnormal Chest Imaging Navigation System, or ARTIST program, was hand-drawn by Dr. Christian Thomas of New England Cancer Specialists, then put into action in a brand-new software program by the Spectrum IT Team.

“We found a way to use the radiologist as the front line of moving the patient through the system quicker than they otherwise might, and we do that simply by utilizing embedded software in our reading platform to activate the ARTIST program and put the patient into the hands of a navigator,” said Dr. Michael Quinn, “that navigator takes control of the patient and moves them rapidly and efficiently onto the next set of imaging, the next set of procedures , or the next necessary sub-specialist office visit.”

Since the inception of this program, this patient centered process has optimized the ability to obtain adequate tissue from a site that is most appropriate for complete cancer staging, and which is used to direct ultimate patient treatment. Now, in addition to a complete array of imaging being used to direct the appropriate site of biopsy, enough tissue at the time of biopsy is taken in preparation of the various specialists that may need to examine it.

“Most of the time, there is no second procedure needed. They don’t have to come back to the hospital and be re-admitted,” said Dr. Christman, “we’re able to provide better patient care faster and cheaper, which is the ultimate goal these days in healthcare.”

After the ARTIST program was initiated in 2016, Interventional Radiology Core Biopsy Adequacy increased from 84% to 95% between January and June of 2017. During that same time, the turn-around time for those biopsies went from 12.3 days to 10.8 days.

“It’s very satisfying.  As radiologists it’s important that we see the direct impact we have on patient care,  and this program does just that not only by moving patients quicker through the program, but by getting them into the hands of a navigator who can assist with their journey through a coordinated care team.  “It’s a difficult time in these patient’s lives and we want them to know they’re not alone in this,” said Dr. Quinn.