At age 46, Miriam has just been told that she has a mass on her thyroid that might be cancer. She has a lot to think about, so it’s a huge comfort to know that all of her upcoming health-care needs will be managed in one place.
A thyroid cancer patient navigating the health system may have to make numerous stops along the way: endocrinology, radiology, surgery, and eventually radioactive iodine treatment. It’s a process that can require referrals, waiting and unfamiliar locations at every step.
That’s why Women’s College Hospital has brought all of these steps under one roof with its groundbreaking Thyroid Program. It’s a rapid access program that works like a one-stop shop for thyroid patients.
Working in partnership with the University Health Network (UHN) and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Women’s College’s Thyroid Program brings together endocrinology and surgery, plus diagnostic imaging, a fast-track biopsy program and a dedicated bed for radioactive iodine treatment following surgery. The result is a patient-centred model of care with the potential to cut wait times in half.
The program is a true partnership between medicine and surgery. Housing both in the same clinic means that if an endocrinologist has a patient who needs to see a surgeon urgently, they can simply take the patient next door. Space is always reserved for critical patients.
“Patients can walk over to see the thyroid surgeon if needed on the same day,” says endocrinologist Dr. Afshan Zahedi, medical director of the program. “That really shortens wait times.”
The Thyroid Program is also the only program in Ontario doing total thyroidectomies within an ambulatory (outpatient) surgery model.
“We worked with UHN to see what kind of innovations we could implement here at Women’s College that would provide the safe ability to do a total thyroid surgery safely,” says Vicky Noguera, director of surgical services. With patient management tools in place in case of emergency, Women’s College is now performing total thyroidectomies with a length of stay less than 23 hours, and most importantly, with excellent outcomes and high patient satisfaction.
The Thyroid Program also provides exemplary continuity of care and increased patient comfort because patients see a familiar face at every step along the way. That familiar face is OR nurse Dennise Forde.
“They see Dennise preoperatively, they see her when they come for surgery, and then post-op when they come back for their management care,” says Noguera. “We’ve created this amazing model of care that’s completely patient-centred.”
It’s a model that the Thyroid Program wants to share with other locations to improve thyroid care and reduce wait times throughout Ontario.
“We’re hoping to use the program as a model so that we can start to help other centres to set up their own integrated thyroid teams,” Dr. Zahedi says.
|Dr. Afshan Zahedi
Medical Director, Thyroid Program
Women’s College Hospital
|Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
“Higher quality care is better for patients and is also less expensive. It means getting it right the first time.”