'Our first 10 sites were de novo, so survival was hard'

E+CancerCare President Amy Radcliff ready to lead company into next 10 years of operation

Amy Radcliff is president and chief operating officer at e+CancerCare. Founded in 2002, the Nashville-based company partners with hospitals, physicians and investors to build cancer care facilities. In May 2003, e+CancerCare opened its first PET/CT imaging center in Houston in partnership with St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System and local physicians. Soon after, it opened additional cancer care centers in Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Illinois and Wyoming. Recently, Nashville Post Managing Editor William Williams met with Radcliff for a chat.

Your company turned 10 in January. What have been the major areas of progress, and what do the next 10 years look like?

Survival. We were a classic start-up in 2002, and our first 10 sites were de novo, so survival was hard. In addition, we have weathered significant reimbursement and competitive challenges, so survival is never taken for granted. Our survival and success over the past 10 years and for the next 10 years is directly dependent on our ability to protect e+CancerCare’s culture of doing everything in the patient’s best interest.

You do an annual report for e+CancerCare. How has it looked the past few years and where do you stand now?

This is an interesting internal document that has evolved over the years. Historically, we haven’t been an organization that has celebrated much. The associate annual report has become a great communication platform to share organizationally what’s going on in the business. It’s been an opportunity to celebrate our successes, provide perspective and set the stage for the coming year. We’ve also poked some fun at ourselves. It’s a healthy thing to do. [Moving forward], organizationally, we are looking to enhance equipment and facilities with more than $10 million in capital expenditures. 

E+CancerCare, though now well established, still has a start-up, entrepreneurial mindset.

That has been one of the hardest leadership challenges. The natural tendency when organizations aren’t worried about survival and start to scale is to become “corporate.” That’s happened to us from time to time. We have read our own press and made some mistakes because of it. Our former CEO and co-founder (Tim Petrikin), who remains an active board member, did a nice job of grounding us and reminding us of our purpose.

There has been much talk regarding the impact the proposed downtown medical mart could have on Nashville’s community of health care companies. What is your opinion of this?

I am proud of Nashville. And [I] personally and corporately want it to be successful. But I’m not sure what the medical mart will offer or what impact it will have on e+CancerCare. I question whether it is addressing the industry of the past or the needs of the future. We need to aggressively address cost and quality while rationalizing the resources available.

One of your most recent efforts involves the Community Cancer Center of North Florida. How has that gone?

Exceptionally well. We have succeeded in implementing our e+CancerHome processes to coordinate cancer care from the day of diagnosis, through treatment and survivorship. The critical keys to this program that our physician partners and caregivers have embraced are a patient guide and  multidisciplinary treatment planning.

How has the business of outpatient cancer care changed during, say, the past five years?

Ninety percent of cancer care is delivered as outpatient care. The major changes have been the distribution of technology and intellectual property from regional academic medical centers to the communities. Patients can now receive 85 percent of what historically has been delivered at academic medical centers in their communities. This allows them to be treated near their home and their support systems at a much lower cost.

Your company has partnered with Lafayette, La.-based OncoLogics Inc. to add eight new centers in southwest Louisiana and Mississippi.

We are excited to partner with Dr. M. Maitland DeLand, who has been the face of OncoLogics, and an excellent group of physicians. The partnership allows us to extend our footprint, and we see opportunities to enhance collaboration with community physicians to create more comprehensive cancer care. The partnership was about a year in the making and allowed us to increase our employee head count by about 25 percent, organization wide. This should generate more than 20 percent in additional revenue.

What is the major challenge facing small health care companies — particularly those in Nashville?

Our major challenge isn’t unique to our size or to health care. It is the acquisition and retention of talent at all levels. The industry has its unique uncertainties, but health care reform won’t cure cancer. A focus on quality and cost is actually a tremendous opportunity for e+CancerCare. We feel we deliver the same or better quality of cancer care with better service at a significantly lower cost than our competitors. Hopefully, health care reform will reward us for this value we deliver to our communities, but it is only through our talented leaders and associates.

The company recently hired PR firm Affect.

Our relationship with Affect is merely to support the company’s centers in local communities by raising awareness of the comprehensive and collaborative approach we take toward cancer care and some of
the events we support.

You are a very active person, having run in the Boston Marathon a handful of times. How does your fitness regimen dovetail with your work at e+CancerCare?

Running the Boston Marathon is nothing compared to the fitness level required to run e+CancerCare. In fact, we have embraced fitness with an onsite gym and programs for every fitness level. Creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an important value we impart on our patients before, during and after treatment. We are working with our associates to instill the same values about the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy diet and some form of exercise. It has been a challenge and requires leadership by example, but our associate engagement is higher than ever before.