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Flynn’s All In

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“The guiding principle in building the new facility was to put the patient’s needs squarely in the center of the process,”— Joseph Flynn, D.O., MPH

LOUISVILLE When you hear experts speak about advancements in the field of cancer, you might immediately think of clinical trials or treatment protocols, but Joseph Flynn, DO, MPH, is not stopping there. As physician-in-chief of Norton Cancer Institute in Louisville, he and Norton Healthcare are taking patient-centric cancer care advancements to the next level at the new Norton Cancer Institute-Brownsboro.

Combined with a state-of-the art new facility, Flynn is seeking to create “a new destination program for cancer care in the region”— one that incorporates a research program with clinical excellence. “The goal,” says Flynn, “was to build a program around the patient being the center of the model but with the staff propping that whole process up.”

The $38 million, four-floor center is 48,000 square-ft. The center’s features include a streamlined registration area using mobile apps, online pre-registration, and kiosks for self check-in. In order to enhance privacy and patient comfort, key areas will use more natural lighting, noise-dampening acoustics, white noise, and music. The strategic use of colors and textures will facilitate wayfinding. For patient rooms, use of a modular interior design system with simply configured panels will make it easy to adapt to changing needs of patients or staff.

When the doors swing open for the first patient, scheduled November 5, Flynn says they will be greeted by kind, friendly, and caring people and find “a facility that’s welcoming and a building that helps guide them to where they need to be.”

A Great Match

Flynn, who joined Norton Healthcare as physician-in-chief of Norton Cancer Institute in November 2015, brings a wealth of experience in both operational business processes and oncology. Originally, Flynn’s career path was in medical equipment and pharmaceutical sales. But, when his mother got leukemia, he went to medical school and the U.S. Army, training in oncology at The Walter Reed Army Medical Center. After that, he worked for the Army in several capacities, including time in Germany in a military hospital that supported the second Gulf War.

When Flynn left the army, he carved a path at Ohio State, utilizing his business acumen to fill various roles in hematology and oncology, including co-director of the hematology division and vice-chair of the department of medicine. He was instrumental in building the new James Cancer Hospital, where he served as associate physician-in-chief. It was that experience that led him to Norton Healthcare, which Flynn says, “is a great match.”

“Taking the unique needs of the whole patient, their therapeutic and behavioral needs, all those things we need as people, and being able to focus our attention to those areas and build a program around that has been very gratifying,” says Flynn. “In my career, I’ve been a lot of different places and the level and quality of physicians and staff at Norton’s is unparalleled.”

When Flynn arrived at Norton Healthcare, the new Norton Cancer Institute-Brownsboro was barely on the radar. He was excited to be involved in the development from the ground floor.

“The guiding principle in building the new facility was to put the patient’s needs squarely in the center of the process,” he says. “There was not a thing in the building that didn’t involve asking our patient advisory committee ‘Does this make sense to you? Will this enhance your experience?’”

A Different Experience for Cancer Patients

“When you have cancer, it can really envelop your life. So, how can we make care more convenient, more patient-centric?” asks Flynn. “How do we actually have a building that leverages technology and helps with our push for a no-wait culture?”

Instead of patients being diagnosed and referred to multiple specialists, Norton Cancer Institute-Brownsboro is using a model where patients can meet everyone right up front with no unnecessary waiting, even as quickly as the day they’re diagnosed.

From patient rooms to a meditation garden to supportive services such as music therapy, art therapy, tai chi, and massage therapy, the consideration for patient aesthetics even extends to the food. “Instead of a cold ham sandwich, the foods we’ve chosen are enjoyable to eat, but also nutritious,” says Flynn. “We have a soup designed by one of our chefs that won a national award not only for taste and presentation, but also its immunologic characteristics for cancer patients. That’s the level of detail we are going to for our patients.”

Flynn says the mission of Norton Cancer Institute is to cure cancer and eliminate suffering.

“Sometimes all we can do is eliminate suffering. At the end of the day, people just want someone who is empathetic, who’s going to give the best care they can, who’s going to really think about them and how to ease their suffering. If we do that, we’re going to win this battle in the long run.”