Trade Magazine Article, A Midwest Oncology Practice Chooses Patients Over Profits (Hype Creative PR/IMC agency)
BOTTOM LINE OR GOOD HEALTHCARE?
A Midwest oncology practice chooses patients over profits
If you’ve ever wondered if your insurance would cover a doctor’s visit or a new procedure,
you know what it’s like to be one of the millions of Americans who worry about paying for
healthcare. In 2007 before the economy worsened, 15 percent of Americans had no health
insurance, according to statehealthfacts.com. Another 26 percent relied on Medicare, Medicaid or
other public healthcare coverage. Now more Americans are out of work, un- or under-insured and
trying to figure out how to pay for visits and procedures.
But at least one group of hematologists and oncologists is choosing to give patients full
medical care regardless of the affect to their practice’s bottom line. Meet Doctors Shabbir Safdar,
Zahid Siddiqui and Kochurani Maliekel of University Hematology Oncology, Inc. The doctors
practice at a privately owned firm with four accessible locations, St. Louis; Poplar Bluff, Mo.; and the
Illinois communities of Centralia and Swansea. Each location provides patients with in-house lab
work, bone marrow biopsies and chemotherapy, including both simple injections and all-day
UHO’s founder, Safdar, a highly qualified professor of clinical medicine at Washington
University School of Medicine and attending physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, has been
committed for more than three decades to finding solutions to make healthcare financially
accessible to his patients and to help them heal. He insists each patient’s clinical needs remain in
focus. “I got in the business to help people,” Safdar says, “not to dismiss people who need my skills.”
Doctors Siddiqui and Maliekel share Safdar’s unwaivering dedication to patient care, as
does Mr. Raza Syed, the practice administrator. Syed and the nursing staff—the employees who
know the patients and their needs better than anyone—work hard to assist patients in acquiring
funding for their recommended treatments. They search for grants from various foundations,
pharmaceutical assistance programs and private donors to ensure patients are able to get the exact
treatment prescribed for them.
However, the need for creative financial assistance has become more urgent since the
economy began to worsen last year. “We are seeing many more people lose medical coverage due to
the loss of employment,” Syed says. “We’ve also seen an increase in limited coverage as a result of
patients enlisting in Medicare alternative plans that don’t end up covering what the patient was led
to believe, and a rise in denials of claims due to the insured employers not making the necessary
premium payments.” So much for employer-based healthcare.
University Hematology Oncology, Inc. provides patients with monthly programs in addition
to medical care. These programs include smoking cessation (an effort to reduce cancer rates in
practice areas), The Look Good Feel Better program in conjunction with the American Cancer
Society, and the more unusual financial seminars. “Whether insured or not, patients are ultimately
responsible for paying for medical care costs,” Syed says. “We don’t want finances in the way of
their health, but patients have to know what they may be up against. We also want to teach them
how, if needed, they can take charge of their healthcare costs by creatively finding sources of
financial assistance. Of course, we do what we can to find these sources, but patients find
empowerment when they can take matters into their own hands. It gives them a sense of control at
a time when it’s easy to despair.”
Since UHO provides patients with care and guidance five days a week at four locations (St.
Louis, Poplar Bluff, Centralia and Swansea) each patient has the convenience of receiving treatment
in his or her area or at another office of convenience. The newest location, Swansea, Ill., is in an easy
to find location. The office is equipped with automatic exam tables that lower to 18 inches to make
it easier for wheelchair-bound patients to transition to the table. UHO also has the only female
oncologist available in the Swansea area, providing many patients the comfort of receiving
exceptional care from a doctor of the same gender. Since UHO is a private firm, patients at all
locations are never absorbed into big hospital systems. (Patients would only be referred to a large
center if the treatments available at UHO were not appropriate).
“In today’s healthcare environment, technology and treatments change all the time. So do
private insurance limitations and Medicare restrictions. These frequently make providing quality
healthcare a very challenging prospect,” Syed says. “But, Dr. Safdar refuses to compromise care to
boost our company’s bottom line. For us at UHO, patient healing is the bottom line.”
For more information on University Hematology Oncology, Inc., their services or how they
can help you find financial assistance for medical care through their practice, call the main office at
(618) 343-9789 or visit www.uhoncology.com.