Speak Up Now!

by Leah Ralph, Director of Health Policy, ACCC

U.S. CapitolFor this year’s ACCC Capitol Hill Day, Wednesday, March 29, ACCC advocates will descend on Washington, D.C., with newfound motivation. As Congress grapples with the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and debates the merits of protecting patients with pre-existing conditions vs. high-risk pools, refundable tax credits vs. subsidies, requirements for essential health benefits vs. more flexibility in benefit standards, oncology care providers see insurance coverage—and their patients’ access to cancer care—at stake.

Yes, It’s Complicated
The political messaging—not to mention policy minutiae—is difficult to sort through, even for the wonkiest of policy wonks in Washington. The ACA has been plagued with insurer drop outs and significant premium increases for the unsubsidized individual market, but the law has also provided critical patient protections, put an end to discriminatory practices by insurers, and covered 20 million new lives through Medicaid expansion and the health insurance exchanges. Having made ACA repeal their rallying cry for years, Republicans are now trying to find a path forward to make changes to the law. But maintaining those critical (and politically popular) patient protections, preserving essential benefits, and covering more people while also reducing costs for both the system and the patients is far from an easy task.

Preserve Patient Protections
More than ever before, this year on Capitol Hill Day, ACCC members have a critical story to tell about the unique needs of cancer patients and the costs of their treatment. Cancer, in many ways, demonstrates the precise need—and role—for insurance. Cancer diagnoses are inherently unpredictable. Cancer patients can’t plan when they are going to be sick or what kind of insurance they will need to cover their costs. In addition to the personal, emotional, and physical toll a cancer diagnosis takes on individuals and their families, cancer patients need good insurance to protect against the risk of catastrophic treatment costs.

The ACA created critical protections for consumers, including eliminating the ability of insurance companies to discriminate based on a pre-existing condition, like cancer, or to impose lifetime or annual dollar limits on policies. And by providing subsidies to those up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level to purchase insurance, the ACA made progress in closing the disparities gap in accessing cancer care.

Protect Patient Access to Care
In record numbers, ACCC members will set out on March 29 to educate Congress on what proposed changes to the ACA would mean for cancer patients and survivors and their ability to access high quality cancer care in the communities where they live and work. In the context of any ACA repeal and/or replace plan, ACCC members will ask legislators to:

  • Protect access to comprehensive, affordable insurance coverage. This is particularly critical for cancer patients facing high-cost treatments that often turn into chronic, long-term conditions.
  • Preserve critical patient protections, such as the ban on discriminating based on pre-existing conditions, no annual or lifetime limits, guaranteed issue, and allowing dependents to remain on their parents’ plan until age 26.
  • Preserve essential health benefits that require insurers to cover preventive services, like cancer screenings, at minimal or no cost-sharing.
  • Maintain meaningful access to clinical trials.
  • Strengthen patient access to adequate provider networks that include cancer specialists and the full range of services required to provide quality cancer care.
  • Meaningfully engage cancer patient and provider groups in any real effort to repeal and/or replace the ACA.

Beyond coverage and access, ACCC members will also reiterate their commitment to value-based care and any efforts to improve quality, affordability, and access in cancer care. ACCC has long been committed to working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to achieve true high-value, cost-effective cancer care. ACCC members support the mission and goals of the ACA-created Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), which has been the subject of recent scrutiny. More than half of the CMMI Oncology Care Model (OCM) participating practices are ACCC members. These forward-thinking practices are dedicating significant time and resources to making this pilot program work.

However, in the wake of last year’s CMMI ill-conceived proposed Part B Drug Payment Model, ACCC members will also strongly encourage Congress to place additional guardrails on CMMI’s authority, including limiting its scope to targeted, voluntary (rather than mandatory) demonstration programs.

ACCC members have a lot to communicate to busy Congressional representatives and staffers this year. But the stories we will share, from the communities in which ACCC members are working on the frontlines of cancer care, will bring home the impact of policy decisions in the clearest, most powerful terms. Now is a critical time to speak up and be heard—for our patients today and those who will become our patients tomorrow. Join us for ACCC Capitol Hill Day. Your story can make a difference.


The ACCC 43rd Annual Meeting, CANCERSCAPE, March 29-31, will provide a 360-degree look at the healthcare landscape from the Democrat and Republican perspectives with insights on what to expect for reimbursement, alternative payment models, drug pricing, quality reporting, and more. Learn more.

What’s in a Name? Is “Tumor Registry” an Outdated Term?

By Holly J. Kulhawick, CTR

Jigsaw puzzle question mark-smThe National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA) recently asked members on its Facebook page, “Is tumor registry an outdated term?” The responses were spirited and detailed the ways tumor registry and the Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) credential can be confusing. For example, NCRA members noted that some of their colleagues and patients think they help patients register for treatment or that a CTR “certifies” tumors. There was a strong sense that the current terminology belittles what cancer registrars do, or gives the impression the work is less technically sophisticated than it is. In a time when registrars are struggling to defend the profession from automation and the fear that this automation will compromise data quality, the Facebook discussion suggested the time has come for the profession to revisit its terminology.

First, the term tumor is outdated on a number of fronts. Cancer registrars track more than tumors. They collect information on blood cancers and some benign and premalignant conditions. Second, the term tumor registrar is confusing. What does a “tumor registrar” do? A more descriptive term, such as Oncology Data Analyst or Oncology Data Manager, explains in three words the actual work of a registrar. Many NCRA members suggested this would help to emphasize the analytical aspects of the job and allow them to highlight to hospital administrators the role they play in supporting the cancer program and other oncology support services. Some facilities are already taking the lead, re-naming their Cancer Registry Department as the Oncology Support Services Department and updating their staff titles to Data Analysts. For some real-world examples of how CTRs can support an organization’s cancer program read “Unlock the Potential of the Cancer Registrar” (Oncology Issues, January/February 2016).

The Facebook posts also noted that the lack of clarity associated with “tumor registrar” does not help a profession that struggles to be recognized. A clear, concise title would go a long way to help elevate the work in the eyes of other health professionals. A change in terminology may also help with the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), which is a quality reporting program that encourages individual eligible professionals and group practices to report information to Medicare on the quality of care. A title such as Oncology Data Analyst or Oncology Data Manager flags the cancer registrar as someone who can assist with PQRS requirements, helping to advance the role of the registrar.

A name change would also help with the general public. Some registrars noted that they have spent time explaining to patients that they are not the hospital staff to help them register for chemotherapy. A more direct or clear term would help to eliminate this confusion. The concept of registration—while reflecting accurately the work of a CTR—makes some patients nervous. When they learn they are part of a large cancer registry, they want no part of it, believing it is too much government oversight. If the terminology were changed to Oncology Data Analyst or Oncology Data Manager, it might better convey that skilled and certified professionals are collecting the data and its use is highly regulated and needed to advance cancer care and treatment.

The Facebook discussion suggested there is strong agreement on possible new terminology: Oncology Data Analyst or Oncology Data Manager. But what are the next steps? The National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA) established a task force in 2008 to study the issue. At that time, there was insufficient member support to make a change. If members want to bring the issue to the forefront again, they can use NCRA’s formal process for members to be heard through its Advocacy and Technical Practice Directors (ATPDs). These board members serve as the liaisons between members and NCRA on matters of advocacy and technical practice. Interested members can go to the Raise Your Voice webpage to contact their ATPD to get the process started.


Guest blogger Holly J. Kulhawick, CTR, is Remote Abstractor for HCA/Methodist Healthcare San Antonio and Flatiron. 

Learn more about the pivotal role your cancer registry can play in supporting your cancer program, during a session on how to “Improve Your Data Collection—Streamline Your Accreditation & Quality Reporting Processes” at the upcoming ACCC 43rd Annual Meeting, CANCERSCAPE, March 29-31, in Washington, D.C.  Read the full agenda here

 

OCM Evolving Best Practices: Lessons to Date

By Monique J. Marino, Senior Manager, Publications & Content, ACCC

ThinkstockPhotos-507273299Last June, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that nearly 200 physician group practices and 17 health insurance companies had been selected to participate in the Oncology Care Model (OCM), the first oncology-specific alternative payment model (APM) pilot. (According to the latest information on the OCM website, participant numbers now stand at 190 practices and 16 payers.)  At about 7 months into this brave new world, participants are beginning to share some lesson learned. At last week’s Cancer Center Business Summit in Las Vegas, a panel discussion on The Oncology Care Model: Evolving Best Practices, shed light on some of the challenges participants have experienced to date with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) model.

Panelist Diana Verrilli, Senior Vice President, Payer and Practice Management Solutions, McKesson Specialty Health, described the OCM as a “thoughtful and comprehensive model that is changing how people are being treated at our practices every day.” With 14 US Oncology practices—about 800 physicians—participating in the OCM, Verrilli shared three tangible outcomes that participants hope to see come out of the program: 1) a change in physician behavior, 2) improved use of clinical pathways, and 3) better patient outcomes, such as helping patients avoid hospitalizations.

OCM-related challenges that US Oncology practices have faced to date include:

  1. Developing processes to easily identify patients on oral oncolytics.
  2. Finding the resources and time required for practice transformation, for example, OCM participants are finding completion of the IOM care plan to be both time and staff intensive.
  3. Developing the complex care partnerships and pooling arrangements necessary to succeed under the OCM, e.g., adequate physician compensation.
  4. Creating processes and tools to needed to meet data submission and reporting requirements.

“If I could change one thing about the OCM,” Verrilli ended. “It would be to reduce the number of quality measures and the amount of documentation that is required.”

Fifty-five Flatiron practices across 20 states are also participating in the OCM. According to panelist Brenton Fargnoli, MD, Associate Medical Director Strategic Initiatives, Flatiron Health, challenges facing these practices relate to:

  1. Care management. How do you identify eligible patients? Keep track of data? Inform patients about their care plans—engaging and educating patients in their care.
  2. Program evaluation and reporting. How do you measure quality? Improve practice performance? Report to the OCM registry in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible?
  3. Revenue cycle management. How do you optimize practice income in the OCM model?

To meet these challenges, Flatiron is working with its practices to develop turnkey solutions, such as:

  1. Care management. Development of an e-process to do patient identification at point of care; Auto-generation of the IOM Care Plans in the EHR.
  2. Program evaluation and reporting. Structured data capture in the EHR; Auto-generation of an OCM Quality Measures Dashboard and OCM Registry reporting requirements.
  3. Revenue cycle management. Implementation of MEOS billing and collections tracking; Cost of care analytics.

When asked how the OCM could be improved, Dr. Fargnoli expressed sentiments similar to Verilli’s, “What’s working? Practices are very engaged and want to see the OCM model succeed. What’s not working as well—OCM rules and requirements are so complex that the majority of provider time is being spent on these documentation and reporting requirements.”

Finally, panelist Barbara McAneny, MD, Chief Executive Officer, New Mexico Oncology Hematology Consultants, shared concerns about the performance targets under the OCM, “If I could change one thing about the OCM, it would be the methodology by which the agency calculates targets so that practices can actually hit them. So how can CMS refine its targets? Give providers a year to collect the clinical data so that we can figure out why some patients are more expensive to treat than others. Using these data, we can work together to better refine OCM targets.”

For OCM participants interested in expanding the conversation, on Friday, March 31, 2017, ACCC is hosting the ACCC Oncology Care Model (OCM) Collaborative Workshop at the Renaissance Washington, DC, Downtown Hotel. Exclusively for OCM participants, the one-day event offers valuable, peer-to-peer learning with like-minded OCM professionals. The workshop will include snapshot presentations from OCM practices with innovative ideas and solutions for meeting OCM requirements, workgroups on hot topics, and a facilitated Q&A session. See registration details below.


The March 31, ACCC OCM Collaborative Workshop is an exclusive event for providers participating in the OCM. All attendees must pre-register for the OCM Collaborative Workshop through the CANCERSCAPE registration portal. To register, select the one-day OCM Workshop during registration checkout. Only those who are pre-registered for this workshop will be admitted. REGISTER TODAY.

Learn more about the ACCC OCM Collaborative here. This invitation-only platform provides a targeted discussion board and access to OCM-focused events. If your program is participating in the OCM and you have not received an invitation to join the ACCC OCM Collaborative, please fill out the form on the Collaborative Homepage to gain access to this peer-to-peer learning resource.

On the Road to Value-Based Care: Operational & Cultural Change

By Monique J. Marino, Senior Manager, Publications & Content, ACCC

2017-Open-Road-smWhile there can be no single roadmap for transitioning to value-based care, a panel session at the 2017 Cancer Business Summit, February 6-7, 2017, co-hosted by the Association of Community Cancer Centers, focused on  Operational & Cultural Change  that can help cancer programs move forward on the path ahead.  Sarah Chavarria, Chief People Officer, NantHealth, shared that successful organizational alignment is centered around these key concepts:

  • Strategy: mission, vision, and values; organizational goals; brand.
  • Structure: placing the right talent in the right role; holding people accountable for meeting organizational goals.
  • Talent: managing against a set of value-based competencies; assessing, developing, and growing the “best and brightest.”
  • Rewards: creating incentives that drive collaboration to deliver on organizational goals; these incentives should be flexible in design to attract and retain top talent—in other words, identifying what your employees value so that the organization can package them and reward behavior they want.
  • Systems and processes: these should enable decision making and responsiveness, and support effective execution.

“Cancer programs should create a ‘Deliberate Culture,’” Chavarria concluded. “If you are not deliberate in defining your culture, it will just happen; and it will not be what you want.”

Panelist James Grayson, a High Reliability Organization Specialist at West Cancer Center, outlined five key steps to help cancer programs succeed operationally and culturally:

Step. 1 Set your bar higher than everyone else’s.

Step 2. Hire people with potential.

Step 3. Invest in your front-line management team.

Step 4. Invest heavily in safety, risk management, leadership, and talent development.

Step 5. Be the cancer program your patients and staff need you to be.

Rounding out the panel was 2017 Cancer Business Summit Innovator Award Winner, Barry Russo, MBA, Chief Executive Officer, The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, who told attendees about the steps his cancer program took to move to value-based care, including:

  • Centralizing patient intake from 9 practice locations to 1 location, streamlining and improving care coordination.
  • Establishing triage as its own business unit.
  • Implementing an internal case management program to facilitate proactive intervention and risk stratification of patients.
  • Growing supportive care services (an effort that requires continual identification of new funding avenues), such as palliative care, chaplaincy services, nurse navigation, survivorship, etc.
  • Implementing a new patient education program.
  • Identifying technology gaps and improving decision-support around data and analytics.
  • Developing communication tools around value-based care to share with employer and payer communities.

To help cancer programs prepare for the change to value-based care, Russo offered five high-level takeaways:

  1. Deliver a consistent message; identify the changes needed and understand how to make these changes.
  2. Establish a new norm—while still a physician-centric care delivery model, ALL members of the care team are essential to healing lives after cancer. Value-based care requires cultural change and significant organizational re-engineering.
  3. Understand that staff and clinician education is a journey and not a destination. Accept that leadership must focus on education, re-education, and then more education. Effective team building requires repetition—leadership rounds, nursing forums, regular reports from pillars in the cancer program, etc.
  4. Be aware that nursing needs a hyper-focus. Nurses enjoy the most touch points with patients, so nursing stability is of the utmost importance to successful cancer programs.
  5. Build strong teams at EVERY level of the organization; teams that can process constant change. The move to value-based care is not for the faint of heart. Staff must be able to accept feedback; brutal honesty is essential to the process. Staff must accept that the move to value-based care means change is interrupting their day, not making it easier.

Learn more about what lies ahead for value-based care at the ACCC 43rd Annual Meeting CANCERSCAPE, March 29-31, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Join your peers to hear from leading experts and decision-makers about the evolving healthcare policy landscape, the latest on alternative payment models, data collection and quality measures, and more. Explore the meeting agenda here.

 

What Happened in Vegas: Highlights from the 2017 Cancer Center Business Summit

By Monique J. Marino, Senior Manager, Publications & Content, ACCC

Person in information spaceLast week in Las Vegas, the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) co-hosted the 2017 Cancer Center Business Summit, a two-day conference focused on how the business of oncology is being transformed by the dual drivers of science and technology. Featured speakers and panelists from cancer programs, technology innovators, patient advocate groups, and payers came together to explore how new technology impacts the delivery and future of cancer care. Session topics highlighted clinical pathways, advanced alternative payment models (APMs), patient-centered care, genomic science, and more. Below are highlights from three conference sessions.

A session on Clinical Pathways: With What Result? looked at how the use of pathways and guidelines have changed clinical practice in oncology and created value. Panelist Marcus Neubauer, MD, Medical Director, Oncology Services, McKesson Specialty Health and The US Oncology Network, offered four forward-looking takeaways:

  1. Quality, performance, and resource consumption will be measured for ALL Medicare providers via MIPS (the Merit-based Incentive Payment System) or APMs.
  2. The value of drugs and technology will be scrutinized carefully by ALL providers—public and private.
  3. Adherence to clinical pathways is a cornerstone for value-based care models.
  4. Practices must transform to meet value-based requirements; provide enhanced services; and be able to negotiate reimbursement contracts with payers that support these aligned efforts.

The focus on new reimbursement models continued in a session on Alternative Payment in Oncology: Today & Tomorrow.  Panelists offered perspectives on their experiences with APMs to date and their outlook for the future. Kelly Blair, MPA, Vice President Consulting, Sg2, shared results from a member survey, which found that:

  • 64% of Sg2 members are NOT participating in oncology-specific value-based or alternative payment programs.
  • Operational issues were cited as the biggest barrier to participation.
  • Of those that are participating, 80% are participating in the Oncology Care Model (OCM).

Panelist Dave Terry, Chief Executive Officer, Archway Health, offered lessons learned implementing bundled payment models:

  • Develop accountable incentives in your bundled payment contracts.
  • Leverage data analytics.
  • Ensure specialist engagement.
  • Embrace innovation.

And panelist Cynthia Terrano, Vice President Payer Strategies, Moffitt Cancer Center, noted the importance of getting payers involved in the conversation. “The train has left the station on APMs,” she told meeting attendees. “Cancer programs need to reach out to their payers now to develop partnerships and experiment with different alternative payment models.”

With data collection a pivotal piece of value-based payment, what help might lie ahead for community oncology? In a discussion on Big Data Platforms to Support Community Oncology, panelist Robert S. Miller, MD, Vice President and Medical Director, CancerLinQ, shared his perspective of what the future may hold, including:

  1. Widespread data sharing.
  2. Meaningful penetration of actionable oncology-specific technology.
  3. Real insights gleaned from unsupervised machine learning applied to next generation sequencing (NGS) output.
  4. Big data platforms supporting external compliance reporting.
  5. Real-world evidence used in regulatory decisions.
  6. Greater structured data capture in EHRs embedded in clinician workflows—a culture change aided by technology solutions.

At the end of a busy two days of sessions, one message came across loud and clear—it will truly take a village to deliver cancer care in the 21st century. Beyond the multidisciplinary cancer care team, this village will include technology innovators that are designing the IT infrastructure necessary to move from fee-based to value-based care; third-party laboratories that process and interpret the genetic and genomic tests required to deliver personalized or precision medicine; and specialty pharmacies that are critical to patients accessing life-saving medications and the financial assistance services they need to afford them.


March 29–31, 2017, in Washington, D.C., the ACCC 43rd Annual Meeting CANCERSCAPE will bring together policy experts and key stakeholders from leading national organizations to share insights on the status of the Affordable Care Act and how value-based care, drug pricing reform, and changes to Medicare will affect cancer programs and practices. Learn more. Early Bird registration rates end Friday, February 17.

Enhancing the Value Proposition: Embedding Palliative Care Services in the Oncology Setting

By Susan van der Sommen, MHA, CMPE, FACHE

nurse and patient holding hands 2In a feature article in the January/February edition of Oncology Issues, Patsy Astarita, LCSW-C, OSW-C, and Michelle Abramowski, MSN, CRNP, share how the Kaufman Cancer Center in north central Maryland developed a palliative care program from the inside out. Though the existing infrastructure of the Kaufman Cancer Center included some palliative care resources, their challenges in developing the program were similar to those faced by other cancer programs: a dearth of existing funding, a navigation program focused on newly diagnosed patients rather than those at the end of life, and limited outpatient palliative care resources, among others.

Despite these challenges, the interdisciplinary care team at Kaufman Cancer Center garnered the requisite leadership support, performed a literature search of evidence-based best practices, and, building upon their existing resources, developed a palliative care program that has met its stated goals: reducing hospital use of chemotherapy at the end of life, while increasing early referrals to hospice and advance care planning. In 2016 Kaufman Cancer Center was recognized with an ACCC Innovator Award for their forward-thinking efforts expanding access to palliative care.

Often confused with hospice (utilized for end-of-life care), palliative care services are intended to provide a patient-centered approach to anticipating—and  thus reducing—pain and suffering, while improving quality of life by addressing the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs of the patient and family. According to a study performed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Ad Hoc Palliative Care Expert Panel, patients with advanced cancer should receive “dedicated palliative care services” within eight weeks of diagnosis, offered concurrently with active treatment. The same study suggests that palliative care services offered early in the treatment process promote clarification of treatment goals, assistance with medical decision-making, enhanced care coordination, and a reduction in stress for the patient, family, and caregivers. Another benefit of introducing palliative care services early in the treatment process is cost reduction and savings through reduced hospital readmissions and emergency room use in the last 30 days of life.

To streamline their processes, the team at Kaufman Cancer Center developed a palliative care screening tool very similar to the psychosocial distress screening tool that has become familiar to most cancer programs in the United States. The five-question palliative care screening tool, now embedded in their EHR, has a 13-point scale that assists the care team in determining if the patient is appropriate for a palliative care referral. Embedding these services into their workflow is further enhanced by a weekly Palliative Care Conference during which team members discuss and review cases to determine next steps for patients and their family and caregivers. Also included in their ongoing programmatic development is a resiliency program to help support their staff as they work with patients during vulnerable times in their lives.

When working to initiate or expand palliative care services in the outpatient setting, most cancer programs face a host of challenges: lack of resources and/or budget; multiple, and sometimes conflicting, priorities; disparate and often disconnected programs. Despite these challenges, the team at the Kaufman Cancer Center did what cancer programs do best: put the patient at the center of their planning processes and developed a program that has improved care and satisfaction while reducing costs.


Contributing blogger Susan van der Sommen, MHA, CMPE, FACHE, is Executive Director, DSRIP, Bassett Healthcare Network, and Chair of the ACCC Editorial Committee.

Learn more about the ACCC Innovator Awards program here.

World Cancer Day 2017—Bringing the Message Home

by ACCC Communications

WCD_LOGO_4C“We can. I can.” This is the campaign slogan of World Cancer Day, an international campaign focused on increasing cancer awareness on the national, organizational, and individual level.

This February 4, 2017, the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) stands shoulder to shoulder with cancer care providers, patients, and families across the globe in recognition of World Cancer Day. Despite advances in diagnosis and treatment, each year more than 8 million people die of cancer worldwide. By the year 2025, this number is projected to increase to more than 11 million.

With the approach of World Cancer Day, ACCC salutes its members in cancer programs and practices across the country who are embodying the “We can. I can.” call to action every day, not only in caring for patients with cancer, but engaging their communities through outreach, education, and screening events throughout the whole year. Here are just a few recent examples of ACCC member initiatives:

ACCC acknowledges all of its members for their “we can” spirit that connects cancer programs and practices across the country in peer-to-peer learning—sharing knowledge, experiences, and solutions—to the benefit of the patients and the communities they serve.

Cooling Down ICER? Five Questions to Consider

By ACCC Communications

Three jigsaw puzzles pieces (sm)Although the value-based reimbursement train has definitely left the station and is picking up speed, those in the oncology community continue to grapple with the thorny issues around understanding and defining value in cancer care. Treatment innovations and costs are driving the value discussion in oncology. New and emerging immuno-oncology therapies, while bringing unprecedented clinical value to many patients, often carry price tags of $100,000 a year or more, and are front and center in these discussions. Patient access in an era of high-priced pharmaceuticals continues to be a major challenge, particularly as many of these innovative therapeutics entail high co-pays and/or co-insurance payments. The result is that some patients face major hurdles to accessing these innovative options.

For those in the oncology community, staying up-to-date on current and proposed value frameworks is essential—not only to advance innovation in cancer care and to ensure patient access to new therapeutic options, but also to protect cancer program economic viability in an era where payment and reimbursement may become increasingly tied to value.

In a recent Institute for Clinical Immuno-Oncology (ICLIO) webinar, a panel of leading experts provided real-world perspectives on value framework development in oncology in the U.S., with a particular focus on the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), which has gained prominence in the past 18 months.  For those in the oncology community who may not be familiar with ICER, panelist Jennifer Hinckel, MSc, McGivney Global Advisors, provided background and offered the following five questions to consider in assessing the organization’s recent report related to non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC):

  • Does ICER have the appropriate expertise to interpret complex clinical data given that there are not disease-specific clinical experts on staff or advisory panels?
  • Does ICER have processes in place to adequately prevent or limit bias or policy/political aims from slipping into its reports?
  • Is ICER’s approach of evaluating products close to the time of approval (or pre-approval) appropriate, given its methodology of including only randomized controlled trial (RCT) data?
  • Does ICER have sufficient staffing to review and update reports in disparate disease areas and to ensure accuracy?
  • Would ICER’s various approaches meet the standards of peer view in a widely published journal?

In a recent op-ed published in the Oncology Business Review, leading lung cancer experts (including ICLIO Advisory Committee Chair, Lee Schwartzberg, MD, FACP) suggest some level-setting principles for value frameworks including the following:

  • Have disease experts as evaluators and authors
  • Have patient-centered endpoints, conclusions, and definitions of value
  • Use rigorous methodologies reflecting evidence-based medicine
  • Apply continuous review and revision
  • Hold peer review and authorship to scientific standards.

Listen to the full ICLIO webinar discussion here.

As noted in a newly-released white paper from the Institute for Clinical Immuno-Oncology, all of the existing first-generation value frameworks have strengths and weaknesses. Each wrestles with defining value, and each exposes inherent tensions between payer concepts of value and the perspectives of patients and providers. As the field of immuno-oncology continues to expand, all stakeholders will need to stay informed and be prepared contribute to ongoing development of value frameworks that consider not only cost and clinical benefit, but patients’ perspectives on value in cancer care.  In the months ahead as the oncology community contributes to the discussion on value determination methodologies in the context of payer negotiations and political pressure to lower costs and enact drug pricing reform, as well as working to ensure access to new and emerging immunotherapy and combination therapies, ICLIO will continue to offer support and resources for the multidisciplinary team serving patients in communities close to home.


ICLIO is an Institute of the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC). In September 2016,  ACCC submitted comments in response to ICER’s national call for proposed improvements to its Value Assessment Frameworks. 

How Navigation Can Help in Decreasing Readmission Rates and ER Visits

By Tricia Strusowski MS, RN

Patient Navigation Healthcare CompassFACT #1: The last place that cancer patients and their family want to be is in the hospital. Hospital stays also increase the chances of hospital-acquired infections, which can result in a longer length of stay and complications.

FACT #2: Patients and family members do not feel well equipped upon discharge from the hospital, especially when it comes to how to handle procedures at home such as dressing changes, central lines, injections, and drains, just to name a few. Medications can also be very confusing, in particular when there have been changes—adding or removing medications, and/or dosage changes.

How can a nurse navigator help? Let’s start by reviewing the roles and responsibilities of the navigator, which often encompass the following:

  • Coordinate the care of the patient and family from pre-diagnosis through survivorship or end-of-life services, removing barriers across the continuum
  • Provide education and access to clinical trials, utilizing proper health literacy techniques
  • Improve patient outcomes through education, psychosocial support, and performance improvement monitoring
  • Collaborate and facilitate communication between patients, family members/ caregivers,
    and the healthcare team
  • Coordinate care across the continuum with the healthcare team
  • Provide cancer program and community resources, and follow-up
  • Participate in multidisciplinary clinics, tumor conferences, and cancer committee, functioning in the role of patient and family advocate

Given these responsibilities, how can nurse navigators help keep our patients out of the hospital?
First, we need to listen to our patients and their caregivers, and we need to share their story with the entire healthcare team. What are their specific concerns and educational needs? Keep in mind that these may have little or nothing to do with their diagnosis or plan of care. A comprehensive assessment of needs is essential for patients and caregivers to become empowered and successful during cancer treatment and to prevent avoidable admissions and ER visits.

Here are helpful tips for navigators to understand and meet these needs:

Patient and Caregiver Education

  • Discuss the preferred learning style of the patient and caregiver during the intake process
  • Create a disease-site-specific patient appointment checklist that includes information on why their appointments are important
  • Use decision-aid tools to empower the patient and caregiver with the appropriate questions to ask their providers and healthcare team
  • Proactively screen your patients for specific support service needs, e.g., dietitian, social worker, etc.
  • Provide safety tips for the home environment or have a home assessment completed
  • Use the same educational materials across the care continuum to decrease confusion for the patient and family
  • Teach patients/caregivers about reportable side effects and adverse reactions and when to call the physician
  • Provide support, resources and guidance for the caregiver as well as the patient
  • Increase contacts/calls with high-risk patients, our “frequent flyers”
  • Use home care resources to educate patients and their family on new procedures or information on their diagnosis and treatment as outlined by their provider
  • Provide community resources for the elderly and disparate population to set them up to succeed at home, e.g., Meals on Wheels, transportation services, child/elder care, etc.

 Clinician Education

  • Provide staff with health literacy training including “teach back” methods for educating patients (for example, the “Ask, Tell, Ask” method outlined in the Institute of Medicine report, Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis)
  • Provide medication reconciliation list/guidance and have patients explain their medications and fill their medication planner
  • Incorporate morning reports for the support staff to proactively identify patient needs and the need for phone calls to patients from the appropriate disciplines
  • Initiate early referrals to palliative care for education and symptom management
  • Initiate early goals of care and advance directives discussions
  • Incorporate rounding with inpatient multidisciplinary staff to discuss discharge disposition, barriers to care, length of stay (LOS), discharge delays, carve-out days, and follow-up calls for 24-48 hours after discharge
  • Monitor the patient’s treatment based on national standards and guidelines
  • Create disease-site standing order sets, physician profiles, pathways, and guidelines with timelines when appropriate
  • Research opportunities for creating an oncology medical home or oncology ER/urgent care triage process with protocols
  • Develop plan for avoidable ER visits, i.e., constipation, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, pain and symptom management, etc.
  • Provide assistance with depression screening (beyond NCCN psychosocial distress screening)

To measure progress, what reports and metrics would be helpful?

  • Request 30-, 60-, 90-day readmission report with reason for admission/chief complaint
  • Request ER visit report for chief complaint
  • Monitor timeliness of appointments, tests, and procedures
  • Review with patients reasons for any missed appointment and assist in resolving issues
  • Create performance improvement projects and metrics to support decreasing readmissions and avoidable ER visits

Discuss and prioritize these ideas with your multidisciplinary team and watch your avoidable admissions and ER visits decline.

Of note: Many of the above examples also align perfectly with the Oncology Care Model (OCM) practice redesign approach, value-based cancer care, and oncology medical home initiatives. Partner with your navigator as healthcare transitions to patient-centered, value-based delivery models.


Contributing blogger ACCC Member Tricia Strusowski, MS, RN, is a consultant with Oncology Solutions, LLC.

ACCC Goes to Washington

By Leah Ralph, ACCC Director of Health Policy

With the transition to a new administration just days away, the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) this week joined with other leading cancer organizations to speak out for community cancer care providers and the patients they serve. On January 11, the Obama White House, in conjunction with Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, hosted a morning-long event Making Health Care Better – Community Oncology.

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ACCC delegation at the White House

ACCC leadership—representing community providers from practices and cancer programs across the country—contributed to the conversation during moderated panel discussions, and provided real-world community perspectives on addressing disparities in access to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment; advancing clinical trials, new technologies, and innovative models of care; and providing support and survivorship services to patients with cancer. The event capped off a year’s worth of work between the Vice President’s office and oncology stakeholders across the country, including multiple meetings with ACCC members, to advance the priorities of Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative and a commitment to achieving a decade’s worth of progress in cancer research in five years.  Don Graves, Counselor to the Vice President, thanked the cancer patients and providers in the room for their work to advance the goals of the Cancer Moonshot and, addressing the uncertainty around the future of the Vice President’s initiative, told the audience “the Cancer Moonshot will continue through you.” The Vice President recently announced he would start a nonprofit organization to continue to address the broad – and complex – issues around cancer research and funding. And late last year, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which provides $1.8 billion for Cancer Moonshot efforts at NIH.

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ACCC Advocates Heading to Capitol Hill

In the afternoon, ACCC co-sponsored a Capitol Hill briefing on Innovation and Access in Quality Cancer Care. Addressing the uncertain political environment, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) highlighted some of the achievements realized by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), while Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) and Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) described the bipartisan effort behind passage of the 21st Century Cures Act. Advocates were assured that funding provided under the Cures Act will be secure, regardless of the fate of the ACA. Co-sponsoring the briefing along with ACCC were the Cancer Support Community, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Community Oncology Alliance, McKesson Specialty Health, Sarah Cannon, and The US Oncology Network.

As the U.S. healthcare system continues to grapple with transformative change, sharing the story of cancer care delivery in communities where patients live, work, and vote is critical to helping policymakers and legislators understand the impact of policies, regulations, and legislation. Join ACCC for Capitol Hill Day on March 29, in Washington, D.C., and share your story.  Learn more here.