Patients First Program for Head and Neck Oncology

Worldwide, more than 550,000 new cases of oral, head and neck cancer are diagnosed each year with approximately 110,000 of those individuals diagnosed in the United States. At Mount Sinai’s Head and Neck Institute, our surgeons have been on the forefront of treating head and neck diseases and cancers for more than 20 years, and Chairman Eric M. Genden, MD, was the first to perform a robotic surgery for head and neck cancer in New York. It is critical to seek care at an institution with dedicated head and neck surgeons, as the complex nature of diseases surrounding the oral cavity and throat may affect form and function, such as speech, swallowing and appearance. Patients who suffer from cancers of the tongue, throat, skin, salivary gland, or thyroid gland often require care from multiple professionals, which is why we created the Patient First Program.

At the Head and Neck Institute, our team experts created this innovative and convenient Program, which entails multiple experts assessing all aspects of the disease at once. These specialists, if required, include: otolaryngology surgeons, facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons, endocrinologists, nutritionists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, speech and swallow pathologists, nutritionists, and social workers. Together, these experts meet with the patient to provide comprehensive support to optimize their care. This also mitigates the number of visits patients would typically require, as visits occur in one convenient site. We realize our patients’ time is valuable and do all that we can to maximize it.

About the Patient First Program for Head and Neck Diseases and Cancer: Putting Patients First

The program is simple: working in consultation with physicians, a dedicated patient coordinator performs a preoperative assessment to identify if patients have a complex medical history, malnutrition, chronic infections, or bleeding disorders. They also seek to understand any potential social barriers to discharge including physical limitations, lack of family support, or the assistance needed with specialized care, such as tracheostomy or feeding tube management. By identifying these patients early in the process, preoperative intervention can be introduced to limit the risk of perioperative complications, delays in hospital discharge, and hospital readmissions.

Our patient coordinators and experts review with patients all aspects of their treatment plan, once solidified, explaining the process in detail. The team addresses all types of surgical and nonsurgical treatment approaches. These include: thyroidectomy (including hemithyroidectomy), salivary gland surgery, transoral robotic surgery (TORS), open resection with microvascular reconstructive surgery, and medical/radiation oncology.

Another facet of this experience is that patients can benefit from the latest clinical trials offered at the Head and Neck Cancer Research Program at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. At this unique Program, scientists have been studying head and neck cancers for more than 20 years and are currently offering 85 trials – many of which focus on cancers associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV). Patients may be candidates for participation in related, innovative trials with the goal of better managing their specific head and neck disease. If appropriate, our Patient First Program coordinators can assist with arranging a meeting with our research coordinators to discuss options and possible enrollment.

Benefits of the Patient First Program at Mount Sinai

Since the implementation of the Patient First Program in 2011, morbidity rates, infection rates, and length of hospital stay have been reduced when compared to similar patients prior to the introduction of the Program. When one considers the national average cost of treating common peri- and postoperative complications, such as surgical site infection ($25,700), hospital acquired pneumonia ($28,000) or a venous thromboembolism ($12,000), making patient care is a priority not only for patients, but also for hospitals and the national health care system.

Our team’s multidisciplinary approach to patient care personalizes each patient’s treatment plan, taking into account his or her disease, stage of the disease, medical history, and lifestyle. Our support team works with each patient’s support team. When coordinated, together, we not only mitigate complications, hospital length of stay, and infection and readmission rates, but we also maximize patient outcomes.