TAMPA — As in most real estate deals, Moffitt Cancer Center's decision to open a new facility at International Plaza is all about location, location, location.
The $22 million satellite, which opened Friday adjacent to the mall, makes Moffitt's physicians and services more convenient to area residents who no longer have to navigate city streets to Moffitt's old satellite offices near downtown Tampa, or battle traffic heading miles north to the main Moffitt campus at the University of South Florida.
"Whether the patients are from Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Clearwater or Oldsmar, this would certainly be a quicker trip," said Dr. Ravi Shridhar, a radiation oncologist who will see patients at the new clinic once a week.
And with easy access to Tampa International Airport, the new location will help Moffitt serve the large number of patients flying in from outside the area.
Last year, 8,700 new patients at Moffitt — more than half of all new patients there — came from outside the region for care. Moffitt officials already are discussing an airport shuttle to ferry patients to the new location. The cancer center also supports airport efforts to expand international flights into Tampa, which could bring in more foreign patients.
The main facility for Moffitt, the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center based in Florida, remains its hospital at USF in North Tampa. That's where patients still will need to go for major procedures, including those requiring sedation. The new location is solely an outpatient facility.
But driving to the main hospital in traffic can add considerably to the travel time. That's no small inconvenience for patients who are receiving daily radiation or chemotherapy, often for weeks on end.
The new facility replaces a longtime Moffitt clinic based at Tampa General Hospital, featuring more than triple the space of the old location.
With the move to International Plaza, Moffitt can provide onsite PET scans, CT scans, MRIs and chest X-rays that weren't available at the old location. This spares patients from having to make a separate trip to obtain images needed for treatment.
Moffitt at International Plaza also will offer patients therapeutic massage, acupuncture and yoga. In the fall, the facility hopes to offer ultrasound and mammography.
The new facility's design follows a health care industry trend toward appealing to patients with amenities. In a waiting room, for example, wood touches accent the soothing sage, teal and gray hues.
To check in, patients wave their hands for a hand scan that pulls up on a computer all of their appointments for the day. Many cancer patients see multiple providers, so this scan means they won't have to check in repeatedly throughout the building.
These touches are especially important for oncology patients, who often need daily treatment, said nurse Nancy Ziel, the administrator running the new facility.
"It's a relationship that you build," she said. "You want them to be comfortable."
To minimize waiting, patients also will receive upon arrival a small disk attached to a wrist band, which Moffitt is calling a care pass. This tracks the patients' movements throughout the building, from appointment to appointment. Doctors can glance at a screen to see who's waiting in an exam room. And staffers will know when to prepare time-sensitive chemotherapy drugs for an incoming patient.
Sam Fishman, 73, lives on Davis Islands and has been receiving treatment for esophageal cancer at both Moffitt's North Tampa campus and the Tampa General location. As he prepares for a round of daily radiation and oral chemotherapy, the prospect of more pleasant surroundings and a worry-free commute are a consolation.
"It's a nice place to go to, if you have to go there," he said of Moffitt's new International Plaza location. "And you can go to the mall for lunch afterwards."
Letitia Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8330. For more health news, visit www.tampabay.com/health.