HaysMed’s Dreiling/Schmidt Cancer Institute has been recertified by the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative.

Only two hospitals statewide have earned the credentials, with the other being University of Kansas Cancer Center in Kansas City, Kan., of which HaysMed is now an affiliate. Nearly 300 hospitals nationwide have been certified based on a set of more than 180 quality measures.

“It’s standardization -- that way the folks treated in Hays, Kansas, are being treated as closely as possible to the same as patients in Kansas City and … at the Mayo Clinic and MD Anderson,” said Dr. Robert Rodriguez, medical director and hematology/oncology physician at HaysMed. “We’re all held to the same standard with that certification.”

The hospital has been certified since at least 2014, and practices are evaluated every three years. The certification program is an initiative of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

HaysMed was certified prior to officially joining the University of Kansas Health System, but the partnership has opened additional doors for cutting-edge treatments and clinical trials, Rodriguez said.

The hospital had partnered with KU Cancer Center even before the affiliation through the Midwest Cancer Alliance, a network of medical and support services throughout the state. Offering clinical trials close to home benefits cancer patients by reducing travel time and expenses.

An example would be a recent clinical trial geared specifically toward patients with stage three melanoma skin cancer. The trial is looking at new medication options after surgery, and results have been promising, Rodriguez said.

“We had four different patients in Hays enrolled,” he said. “It’s a university-based trial, and we enrolled the first patient in Kansas before the university did.”

While beneficial to western Kansas patients, the results of those trials have the potential to affect medical practices nationwide and even globally, he said.

Patients travel a wide area of western Kansas to receive cancer treatment in Hays, with an estimated 95-percent of patients coming from out of town. HaysMed also is seeing an increase in patient numbers from the southwest part of the state, and offers discounted hotel rooms for those in need.

“We can also provide an escort service from the hotel to our facility if they can’t physically drive or have somebody with them,” said Kristy Schlaefli, director of acute care and oncology services. “We really try to meet the needs of our patients.”

The Dreiling/Schmidt Cancer Institute strives to treat the whole patient, Rodriguez said, through an inter-disciplinary treatment approach often involving physicians in the areas of surgery, oncology, hematology and radiation therapy. Physicians meet for “tumor board” discussions and make efforts to communicate about details of each patient’s individual treatment plan.

“It’s not so much what’s the right treatment for colon cancer, but what is the right treatment for Mr. Jones’ colon cancer,” he said. “Considering where he lives, his resources, his family situation -- all those things are taken into consideration.”

The medical clinic also offers genetic testing and second-opinion appointments with KU physicians for patients who would benefit. In those cases, Kansas City physicians are given all of the records pertinent to the patient’s diagnosis, and the appointments are held via teleconference.

“There’s a lot of things that we’re able to do here that are pretty underutilized and under-known, and we would love to be able to help more folks,” he said.