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Oncologists Believe Achieving Cancer Moonshot Goals Should Start in the Community

Surabhi Dangi-Garimella, PhD
Community oncologists believe that they are in a very good position to lead the way to achieve the goals of Cancer Moonshot.
Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative placed significant emphasis on the role of cancer centers in improving the nature of oncology care delivery in the country, ultimately to improve patient outcomes. However, community oncologists believe that they are in a very good position to lead the way.

Joining this discussion at the 2017 Community Oncology Conference, April 27-28, were William Harwin, MD, president and managing partner, Florida Cancer Specialists; Edward Licitra, MD, PhD, chief financial officer and director of revenue cycle, Central Jersey Division, Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA); and R. Steven Paulson, MD, President, Texas Oncology. Debra Patt, MD, MPH, MBA, vice president, Texas Oncology, moderated the discussion.

When asked about the role played by each of the practices in fueling Cancer Moonshot, Harwin said that there are many different factors that can influence Cancer Moonshot, including developing a patient care system. “We have about 50 patient managers, many of whom work remotely. We also have an active phase 1 unit on site, and that’s one of our biggest initiatives.”

As a result of requirements of the Oncology Care Model (OCM), Harwin's organization also has a care management team. “They are available 24 hours and provide triage, which is very valuable for our patients,” he added. The care management team, Harwin added, adhere to protocols developed for triage management and psychosocial support.

Paulson noted, however, that the challenge with OCM is the upfront investment for additional staffing requirements, to ensure reporting requirements and change implementation can be met. Paulson also addressed the importance of extending clinic hours to avoid emergency room visits.

“OCM has given us the ability to focus and change culture,” Licitra emphasized. He explained that the changes that a practice infuses to meet OCM requirements are not restricted to Medicare patients, rather, they extend to other patient populations as well. “While it is a work in progress, we are trying to centralize our processes,” he said, adding that RCCA is working with Innovative Oncology Business Solutions, co-founded by Barbara McAneny, MD, to bring this about.

“How important is research for your practice and how you have you built in in your practice?” Patt asked the panelists.

Licitra noted the importance of data integration to improve patient outcomes. RCCA is assembling all the genomics and proteomics information on patients and then trying to identify ways to improve outcomes. “We are using tools to understand both clinical and financial outcomes,” he added.

“We need people to realize the value of community oncology and they come to us and give us the opportunity to care for them,” Licitra said.

Paulson explained that Texas Oncology has built relations with hospitals, clinics, and the pharmaceutical industry to help support their in-house research efforts. “We try to create a situation where the best molecules are accessible to our patients,” he said.

He is, however, concerned with the low rate of clinical trial enrollment, especially among newly diagnosed patients.

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