Allison Braden, the Director of Pharmacy for Cancer Care Specialists of Illinois, had a vision nearly four years ago that has finally come to fruition.
That vision resulted in what Braden believes is the first “mobile compounding” vehicle. The Shelbyville native said with the mobile unit, Cancer Care Specialists of Illinois can now bring chemotherapy drugs to its patients outside of Effingham with more ease and efficiency.
The 42-year-old sought to improve the facility’s processes while continuing the vision of founder Dr. James L. Wade III, medical oncologist. Wade started Cancer Care Specialists of Illinois and led its expansion into Effingham and other central Illinois regions.
Braden said the idea for the mobile unit blossomed from her interest in bringing drug-mixing locations to the CCSI satellite clinics.
“I thought to myself, well what if we could take the clean room that we have here and sort of put it on wheels and take it to our patients,” Braden said. “Some of the drugs that we currently mix, once we put the two medications together, they’re not good for very long. So, if that is the only medication for a patient, there’s a potential they have to drive to a place where there’s a brick-and-mortar room, like here in Effingham, Swansea or Decatur.”
Currently, the mobile unit is at the Crossroads Cancer Center in Effingham on Mondays and Fridays and travels to Fairfield Memorial Hospital’s Medical Arts Complex on Tuesdays, HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital Specialty Clinic in Breese on Wednesdays and Fayette County Hospital in Vandalia on Thursdays. Braden said the mobile unit has been on the road for just a month, and she hopes to add more locations.
Braden said three years ago she presented the idea for the mobile compounding unit to the Cancer Care Specialists physicians who agreed such a unit was needed.
Braden contacted Summit Bodyworks in Colorado. Summit Bodyworks creates specialized vehicles for general medicine, dental care, mammography clinics, mobile labs and more, according to the company’s website.
The result was a two-seater Freightliner chassis and a blue and green back half that is similar to other mobile medical units already on the road. Braden said two compounding technicians operate the vehicle and are licensed to do so. One technician spends the day driving while the other mixes the chemotherapy drugs.
When it came to the inside of the back unit, Braden made sure it had everything the compounding technicians would need. The unit contains two rooms, one with a general pharmacy staging area and prep area with a wheelchair lift, storage for equipment and tools, a non-hazardous material refrigerator and a laptop for the technicians to communicate with nurses.
The second room is a containment segregated compounding area. This room operates as a negative pressure environment and contains a biological safety cabinet, the room’s source of sterile air and mobile carts to store tools and other compounding ingredients.
Braden said the two rooms have independent thermostats to help maintain the drugs used in the chemotherapy compounds.
“The requirements for the space in which you’re mixing drugs is a little bit different than kind of a general work area, so for the capacity to maintain those, it has to be independent of each other,” Braden said.
The rear unit also has a push-button locking system and an exterior monitoring panel for security purposes. The unit can operate on a generator or be plugged in on site at a satellite location, Braden said.
The mobile unit got its first experience of aiding satellite locations a month ago when it traveled to the Decatur Memorial Hospital Cancer Care Institute. Braden said the clean room at the Decatur location was being remodeled.
Aside from reaching patients closer to their home clinics and cancer care institutes, Braden said one of the biggest successes of the mobile unit thus far has been cost savings. Braden said before the mobile unit was created, technicians mixed chemotherapy compounds at the Effingham location and would send them to the satellite clinics in the morning before patients arrived.
Braden said if the patient couldn’t make it to their chemotherapy appointment or it was canceled for any reason, the premixed chemotherapy drugs would have to be destroyed because they are only good for a limited time. Now, waste is reduced and, therefore, costs saved because the unmixed drugs return to the Cancer Care Specialists pharmacy.
“The one thing that has been very apparent right off the bat is the enormous amount of waste that has been prevented,” Braden said. “Now, they (chemotherapy drugs) arrive at the clinic not mixed, and so if patients are unable to attend their appointment and get their infusion, the drugs just come back here and go back into stock. The financial aspect of that is enormous.”
Braden said now patients can participate in clinical trials at the satellite clinics. Previously, those wishing to participate had to travel to Effingham for the trials.
Overall, Braden said her mobile unit is meant to bring quality care to the Cancer Care Specialists patients across the region. Even if it helps just one person, she said all of her hard work was worth it.
“I thought if we can at least help those patients get care closer to home, then this would be a great thing,” Braden said.