Cancer management program allows DVMs to diagnose, treat and track oncology cases via Internet-based consultations with specialists
Rowlett, Texas- When a 5-year-old Golden Retriever walked into the Animal Hospital of Rowlett with a bad case of hiccups, Dr. Kim Downes sensed something wasn't right. Three days later, the general practitioner had a diagnosis and prepackaged drugs to treat the problem. The disease was lymphoma.
While Downes isn't an oncologist formally trained to treat cancer cases,she has help. The practitioner subscribes to an online cancer managementprogram called Oncura. For $45 a month plus $150 initial consultation fee,she and her colleagues can diagnose, treat and care for cancer patientsinstead of referring the cases to a specialty hospital. The system not onlyworks to keep her patients healthy and clients happy, it provides a boostto her practice's bottom line.
"Our clients really like us doing this in-house because we're wherethey live; they're comfortable here," Downes says. "We were doingsome oncology here before, so ordering drugs through Oncura takes the mixingout of the hospital. Our inventory is way down, we don't waste as much andwe've increased the safety for staff. We no longer have to worry about (OccupationalSafety and Health Administration) requirements."
How it works
Oncura is the brainchild of Dr. Brian Huber, dipl. ABVP, and aids generalpractitioners in developing, implementing and operating successful oncologyservices for their patients, virtually eliminating the need to refer toa specialist.
Once cancer is confirmed with a biopsy report, Oncura oncologists consultwith veterinarians on the complete health of the pet, type of cancer andavailable therapies. To simplify the drawing of blood and administrationof chemotherapy, veterinarians are taught to surgically implant vascularaccess ports into patients. Oncura then provides the exact amount of drugsneeded per case, prepackaged with protective gear, eliminating waste. Consultantsand veterinarians manage cancer cases via e-mail and phone calls.
"We go case-by-case, step-by-step, injection-by-injection with thepracticing veterinarian," Huber says. "The system is extremelydetailed and controlled by our consultants. Once practitioners get on boardwith us, we're there to help these guys walk through their case. It's notjust e-mail. It's true case management."
Beefing up services
Oncology was foreign to Dr. Keith Taylor before he signed on with Oncura.Now the owner of Rockwall County Veterinary Clinic in Rockwall, Texas, sayshe's comfortable with the program, having treated two cases.
"I was totally ignorant about treating cancer, and the program waseasy for me," he says. "That's what makes Oncura so nice. Theyfollow your case. They won't give you any medication without clearing thehurdles. It's a pretty good deal."
Handling the cases at the hospital makes it affordable for the clientand keeps the profits in-house, Taylor adds.
"All the staging occurs here in the clinic, the X-rays, the bloodwork," he says. "But that makes it affordable for the clients,too. Instead of buying a $300 drug and throwing most of it away, Oncuraportions what you need for you. It's great.
"The other thing I appreciate is you can speak to the oncologist.It's constant interaction."
Behind the scenes
Oncura actively works an average 35 to 70 cases a month. Clients includeBanfield Pet Hospitals and National PetCare Centers as well as private practitioners.
Serving as consultants are Dr. Michael Lucroy, dipl. ACVIM, and Dr. StevenSusanic. Oncura medical directors are Dr. Philip Bergman, dipl. ACVIM, andDr. Guy Mauldin, dipl. ACVIM.
Oncura doctors take phone calls, answer e-mails and practitioners caneven attend training sessions at the Oncura facility in Dallas. "Thesystem's available to veterinarians anywhere in the country," Hubersays.
That's good news for the profession, Downes adds.
"Unfortunately there are dogs in areas in this country where therearen't specialists, and they're being denied," she says. "Oncurais the only way that all practitioners can get these drugs along with propercare."