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Case Study

How Wellstar built a truly patient-centric early lung cancer detection program

15 Minute Read


    The challenge

    Early lung cancer detection saves lives. However, a recent study found that just about 14.4% of eligible patients received the recommended screening exam, low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). Additionally, the times between screening to diagnosis and diagnosis to treatment may be lengthy. One study published in 2019 found that there was a 19.2% reduction in survival in Stage I lung cancer for every six weeks until treatment was initiated.

    The organization

    Wellstar Health System is a large health system located in Georgia. The system includes 11 hospitals, 9 cancer centers, and 21 imaging centers among other services.

    The approach

    Wellstar developed a multidisciplinary lung cancer detection program that involves community provider outreach to increase screening rates, comprehensive pulmonary nodule management, and a “STAT” clinic to centralize and expedite care decisions.

    The result

    Wellstar’s lung cancer screening program expects to conduct 13,000 lung cancer scans in 2022 alone. Since the STAT Clinic began in 2007, they have reduced the average time from scan to diagnosis to treatment from 94 days to just 14 days.

    Sponsored by
    The Lung Ambition Alliance logo

    This report is sponsored by AstraZeneca, in partnership with The Lung Ambition Alliance. Advisory Board experts wrote the report, conducting the underlying research independently and objectively. AstraZeneca had the opportunity to review the report.



    How Wellstar built a truly patient-centric early lung cancer detection program

    Lung cancer detection requires collaboration between many different specialties. Even after a suspicious finding, traditional care models require multiple patient visits. To streamline care, Wellstar gathers all the relevant clinicians to create a consensus care plan as quickly as possible.


    The three elements

    Wellstar’s approach to building a comprehensive lung cancer detection program involves three elements:

    • Element

      Engage primary care providers and streamline referrals

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    • Element

      Increase care entry points through incidental findings management

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    • Element

      Reduce turnaround times through STAT clinic approach

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    How we know it’s working

    In 2022, Wellstar expects about 13,000 patients in their lung cancer detection program. Almost half of those patients came through their newly developed incidental pulmonary nodule program, and the others came through screening. Since beginning their lung cancer program in 2007, Wellstar has reduced time from nodule identification to treatment initiation by 78% to an average of 14 days.

    • Community impact: Wellstar’s lung cancer screening program currently scans around 500-600 patients a month, with 80-120 new patients a month
    • Stage shift: Approximately 71% of cancers detected are Stage I and II, with about 29% detected at Stages III and IV (compared to a national average of 24% of cancers detected at an early Stage)
    • Experience: Wellstar’s STAT Clinic maintains patient experience scores above the 90th percentile

    Having the right approach to lung cancer screening may help save lives. By combining a screening program with incidental finding programs, and managing both efficiently and effectively, Wellstar has been able to do just that.


    About the sponsor

    The Lung Ambition Alliance, a global coalition with partners across disciplines in over 50 countries, was formed to combat lung cancer through accelerating innovation and driving forward meaningful improvements for people with lung cancer. We do this by advocating for improved approaches in three areas: screening and early diagnosis, accelerated delivery of innovative medicine, and improved quality care.

    Learn more about The Lung Ambition Alliance

    This report is sponsored by AstraZeneca, an Advisory Board member organization. Representatives of AstraZeneca helped select the topics and issues addressed. Advisory Board experts wrote the report, maintained final editorial approval, and conducted the underlying research independently and objectively. Advisory Board does not endorse any company, organization, product or brand mentioned herein.

    To learn more, view our editorial guidelines.

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