I recently had the honor of representing the Society at the
ASCO co-hosted 2012 Cancer
Center Business Summit
, titled “Transitioning to
Value Based Oncology: Strategies to Survive and Thrive.” This unique meeting brought
together multiple stakeholders to share perspectives on the current state and
future direction of oncology. Appropriately, the agenda reflected the diversity
of topics and models of major interest to the oncology community, including presentations
on a benchmarking study of oncology practices, payer and provider initiative
panels on innovative payment models, organizational strategies for future success,
and building the patient-centered medical home. We also listened to a great
presentation on end-of-life care, advanced-care planning, living life well, and
the “journey of life” (which I will address in a future blog post).
What we learned at the summit emphasized the significant
challenges we face, but also left room for hope. Practices are feeling the
squeeze, but they are adapting. The future of community cancer care remains in
flux, but like others present at the meeting, I left the meeting feeling excited
about our field and the future of oncology. Issues such as fragmentation, cost,
and efficiency are being recognized and addressed. During our discussions, I
heard many terms related to practice models—blending, surviving, collaborating,
thriving, dynamic, pathways, volatile, disruptive, care management, trust, and urgency.
But the most important term I heard was “proactive,” which captured the
essence of the meeting and why we carved out time to attend.
All of the speakers emphasized what we all know and live
with every day—it’s all about the patient. We want to continue building those
relationships with our patients as they enter the most important journey of their life and make that journey
as good as it can possibly be. In order for that to happen, we as physicians
need to be leaders in deciding our own fate and, in the process, the fate of our
Patients want community oncology practices to thrive
because their satisfaction is higher when they can stay close to home in a user-friendly
environment; payers want community practices to survive because costs are less;
and community physicians want to survive in some form because it provides
control, autonomy, and more personal satisfaction.
In order to achieve these,
we discussed many different solutions, including different forms of Accountable Care Organization
involvement, multispecialty groups, oncology medical homes, oncology “supergroups,”
state-wide oncology programs, innovation grants for oncology initiatives, and hospital
employment or practices directing cancer-service lines for a hospital.
In order for patients to continue to have access to high-quality
care close to their homes and families, it is critical that community oncology
not only survive, but thrive. We all love medicine and look back on the
idealistic goals we had when we entered the field. We want to preserve those
goals for our future and continue with the cognitive and humanistic part of
what we do.