CONTACT: Jennifer Glicoes
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 6, 2014
Oncology Stakeholders Agree: In a Shifting Healthcare Environment, Communicating Quality is Critical
ROCKVILLE, Md.—In a healthcare system that is increasingly shifting from volume to value, how do payers and patients distinguish quality cancer care? According to a new consensus from a group of cancer care experts, communicating quality is one of the greatest challenges facing today’s oncology care providers.
The topic fueled a robust discussion at the Association of Community Cancer Centers’ (ACCC) second annual Institute for the Future of Oncology (the Institute) forum. At the meeting, ACCC convened a leading group of multidisciplinary oncology stakeholders to garner consensus and progress in measuring and communicating excellence in cancer care, based on participants’ front-line experiences. A white paper published following the forum discussion, “Communicating Quality in Oncology,” points to best practices in demonstrating quality, as well as some of the barriers impeding effective communication.
“Healthcare reform is quickly changing the landscape and communicating quality is a keystone in successfully bridging the transition from a volume-based to a value-based, patient-centric model,” said Thomas A. Gallo, MS, Executive Director, Virginia Cancer Institute, Inc. and discussion facilitator during the Institute forum. “As oncology providers and professionals, ACCC’s members are committed to providing the best care to patients; however, the way we currently measure and communicate quality is not comprehensive or well-aligned, especially for whom it matters most – patients,” said Gallo.
While a one-size-fits-all definition of “quality” in cancer care is likely a long way off, the incentive to communicate value to stakeholders today is pervasive. Forum participants highlighted several best practices among cancer programs that successfully and proactively communicate quality with key constituents:
- Clearly relay the standards of quality that guide care with all key constituents, from board members and community leaders, to patients, payers, and the community at large.
- Engage patients to better understand and address concerns or problems. ACCC’s 2014 Trends in Cancer Programs survey found that more than 93 percent of respondents currently track patient satisfaction, understanding the important role it plays in supporting the perception of quality care. Some programs have also established patient advisory councils to review patient comments and identify solutions.
- Prepare to communicate quality measures and metrics as a requirement for payer reimbursement. In the same survey, 28 percent of respondents reported a current need to provide data to payers; however, most believe this will become a widespread requirement in the near future.
- Create a culture that encourages all staff members to communicate with key stakeholders about the quality of care being provided. Fostering a culture of improvement, not punishment, is essential to advancing quality care. Leverage social media as an important avenue to communicate quality. Patients are savvy in using online tools to gauge the reputation of cancer programs; recognize and respond to the fact that online engagement can have significant positive (or negative) impact in communicating quality to consumer audiences.
Measuring quality is another key challenge faced by cancer providers. Some Institute forum participants questioned the value of preserving numerous certifications for the sole purpose of demonstrating “quality,” since individual stakeholders often view the care experience through different lenses. For patients, quality care is often determined by non-clinical factors, such as relationships formed with a provider or nurse, or the availability of supportive financial services – neither of which are likely to impact a hospital’s accreditation or certifications.
The increasing number of quality and accreditation data reporting requirements represents an additional burden for oncology providers and a rising concern among all physician practices, not just those focused on treating cancer. Streamlining the processes to maintain certification and limiting the number of regulatory programs could serve to alleviate the burden placed on cancer programs by freeing up staff to better serve patients.
“A strong, accurate picture of quality is needed to ensure health systems are fairly compensated for the care that yields the most value to cancer patients,” said ACCC President, Becky DeKay, MBA. “I’ve committed my term as President to ensuring that ACCC is prepared on all fronts to lead community oncology providers in not only providing the highest quality care, but in demonstrating the value of community-based practices to the larger oncology community.”
To learn more about these findings or to learn more about ACCC, visit www.accc-cancer.org.