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New doc lifts Community breast biz

January 5, 2011

Community Health Network wooed Dr. Robert J. Goulet Jr. away from the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center to join its breast-surgery team. The move fits nicely with Community’s focus on breast-care services and the economics of health care.

Goulet, not to be confused with the star of Broadway musicals, had been medical director of the breast-care and -research center at the IU Simon Cancer Center. In his new role, Goulet will open an office this month on the campus of Community Hospital East.

Community already has five breast surgeons at its two other Indianapolis hospitals—in Castleton and just north of Greenwood.

“Bringing Bob in has brought a lot of attention to the breast-care program,” said Dr. Chace Lottich, medical director of Community Breast Care, adding she hoped Goulet's addition strengthened Community’s connection with IU.

But that may be easier said than done. Cancer is one of those service lines that can be extremely lucrative—and is therefore highly competitive among hospitals.

At Community North Hospital, for example, the average Medicare cancer patient that checked into the hospital stayed for four to seven days, racking up charges topping $35,000.

That doesn’t mean Community collects all that money. But with its charges roughly 10 times what its expenses are for cancer patients, according to federal data, Community still has plenty of margin left.

Community, like most hospitals, has invested heavily to keep up with diagnostic equipment that has helped doctors identify breast cancer long before lumps appear.

“It falls right in to what the vision is,” Sue Sandberg, Community’s vice president of women’s and children’s services, said of Community’s hiring of Goulet. “Our vision is to be the premier breast cancer destination for women.”

And there are other reasons for Community to focus on breast cancer, too. It’s the second-most-common cancer among women. And as Lottich noted, doing right by patients—especially female patients—can bring them and their families back for many other health care needs.

“Women sort of drive health care,” Lottich said. “So, when you look forward, their recognition or their identification with Community will help lead them into, maybe, looking more closely into the bariatric program [or other Community services].”

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