Up to the Task: Fostering Quality Cancer Care Around the World

Dec 03, 2019

By Katherine H. Crawford, MA, PMP, ASCO Communications

ASCO’s vision is a global one: “A world where cancer is prevented or cured, and every survivor is healthy.” To this end, the Society has been increasing its outreach and offerings to oncology practices outside the United States to support high-quality care. One of the groups fostering ASCO’s quality offerings abroad is the International Quality Task Force (IQTF).

The IQTF’s role is to provide leadership and strategies for expanding ASCO’s international quality offerings, the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI®), QOPI® Certification Program, and the Quality Training Program (QTP). Its members do this through a variety of activities, including:

  • Representing ASCO at international quality and oncology-focused meetings
  • Promoting collaborative models with international quality and oncology organizations
  • Identifying international leaders who can champion international quality in their respective countries/regions
  • Writing abstracts and developing posters to be submitted to the ASCO Annual Meeting and other international meetings.

“As a task force, our most important function is to provide strategic direction for the international development and expansion of all of ASCO’s Quality programs,” said IQTF chair Carolyn Hendricks, MD, FASCO. “The task force is grounded in tangible evidence that quality oncology care is truly global.”

At any given time, the IQTF has between five and 13 members comprised of clinicians with experience in quality measurement and/or practice-based quality improvement, and it is led by a chairperson working with a chair-elect and immediate past chair. There is always at least one current member from the QOPI Steering Group, the QOPI Certification Steering Group, the Quality Training Program Steering Group, and the International Affairs Committee to liaise between their respective groups and the IQTF. The task force reports to the ASCO Quality of Care Council (QCC).

“With each new international practice entry, the IQTF gains new insights in practice improvement that have no boundaries,” Dr. Hendricks said. “The enthusiasm and commitment with which each international practice has become engaged in ASCO’s Quality programs has helped incentivize the task force to engage more and varied U.S. practices in program participation.”

For the upcoming year, the IQTF is focused on five priorities, which support ASCO’s 5-year strategic plan to become a leader in delivering the information and diverse expertise needed by the global oncology community to reduce the burden of cancer:

  • Improving the quality of oncology care through QOPI, QOPI Certification, and QTP
  • Increasing QOPI participation internationally
  • Piloting the QOPI measures set for low and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs)—a selection of five measures from the existing QOPI library relevant to LMIC practices—at two practices with the goal of introducing the concept and value of measuring for quality improvement
  • Increasing awareness of ASCO’s quality programs and the benefits of participation in them through education and connecting with members.

The IQTF’s support will be even more important as ASCO’s quality initiatives expand their international offerings. For example, in the past few years, QOPI, the QOPI Certification Program, and the QTP have been established in countries outside the United States.

“International expansion of ASCO’s Quality programs is challenging because of the geography, diversity, and complexity of global oncology clinical care,” Dr. Hendricks explained. “In order for expansion to be successful, the programs need to be accessible and clinically meaningful to international practices and to adhere to their cultures, patterns of practice, and privacy standards.”

QOPI, a platform for ASCO to work with its members and collaborators around the world to measure and promote the highest quality of care for patients, is currently available in 39 countries outside the U.S. and its territories: Argentina; Australia; Brazil; the European Union (all countries); India; New Zealand; Pakistan; the Philippines; and Saudi Arabia. In 2018, 345 physicians from 38 practices outside the U.S. participated in the oncologist-led, practice-based quality assessment program, which helps practices create a culture of self-examination and improvement. The program is available to any practice with an ASCO member, and there is no participation fee.

Practices that achieve a specified QOPI score are eligible to apply for QOPI Certification, which provides a 3-year certification for outpatient hematology-oncology practices that demonstrates a practice’s commitment to quality. At present, there are 14 practices outside the U.S. that are QOPI Certified: five in Brazil, one in Greece, one in Romania, one in Saudi Arabia, and six in Spain.

The QTP only began hosting workshops outside of the U.S. in 2018 and already has held sessions at practices in Brazil, Greece, Romania, and Spain. In addition, teams from practices in Brazil, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Spain have attended QTP sessions in the U.S. The program, which is offered in a 6-month or 1-day format, prepares physician-led teams of oncology providers to design, implement, and lead successful quality improvement activities in their practice settings. Participants learn how to identify techniques and tools used in quality improvement, identify relevant metrics, and structure a quality improvement project with support from experts in the field.

Finally, in November 2019, the first Quality Care Symposium took place outside the U.S. after the Spanish oncology professional society, Fundación ECO para la Excelencia y la Calidad de la Oncología, licensed the event. This was the first time an ASCO meeting was licensed to another organization either domestically or abroad.

ASCO will continue to expand its quality offerings with leadership and support from the IQTF, as well as the Society’s growing community of international members and longstanding collaborations with major oncology organizations and institutions around the world. All the work is done with the aim of promoting high-quality care for patients with cancer around the world.

“A major goal for 2020 is the implementation of the QOPI track for low and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) to serve as an eventual entry point to ASCO’s other Quality programs,” Dr. Hendricks said. “The track will provide intensive support for data abstraction for a defined measure set and customized analysis for each practice.”

For more information about the IQTF or any of ASCO’s international quality offerings, email GlobalQuality@asco.org.

View the current IQTF roster.

Acknowledgment: Alex Roach, MPH, of ASCO Clinical Affairs, contributed reporting.

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