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Dr Joseph Alvarnas on Opportunities Presented by Virtual Format of PCOC® 2020


Through this year's virtual format for Patient-Centered Oncology Care® 2020, participants will be able to attend sessions, ask questions, and gain insight in an immediate, efficient way.

Through this year's virtual format for Patient-Centered Oncology Care® 2020, participants will be able to attend sessions, ask questions, and gain insight in an immediate, efficient way, said Joseph Alvarnas, MD, of the City of Hope and editor-in-chief of Evidence-Based Oncology.


AJMC®: Patient-Centered Oncology Care will feature many speakers on aspects of federal policy, both within and beyond CMS. As someone who deals with federal policy matters day-to-day, what do you think will be the pressing topics, and what do you hope to gain?

Dr Alvarnas: The most pressing topic I think is going to focus on how do we construct systems of care that actually allow for effective and equitable delivery of the kinds of transformational cancer technologies that exist today.

We're in the midst of a period of extraordinary innovation, where much of what we knew about cancer 5 or 10 years ago, has been superseded by new knowledge, both in terms of diagnosis and in terms of therapeutics. What we've not done is build systems of care delivery and reimbursement that allows for these new technologies to be equitably, financially, sustainably, and humanely sustainably delivered to everyone who needs them.

So, I'm looking forward to conversations that challenge our assumptions, and provide us with a little bit of a provocative push to have to think through what the future of cancer care might have to look like, how it might have to evolve, in order to achieve the goal of truly equitable, sustainable, patient-centered oncology.

AJMC®: A featured speaker from City of Hope will discuss the role of business partnerships in oncology care delivery. What opportunities exist in this area, and how can employers engage with cancer centers?

Dr Alvarnas: So, I think one of the things we have to realize is that cancer care is different–that some of the methods for controlling costs or even distributing care expertise that may function very well in primary care don't necessarily work well in cancer care. So, narrow networks, for instance, don't necessarily translate into better cancer care. They can translate into more effective care in primary care.

So, I think a challenge is, how do those paying for health care, and employers represent a diverse, but I will say very powerful group of stakeholders who have to navigate this idea of dealing with the differentiation of cancer care, and ensuring that their members receive the most effective care possible, while still managing the cost conundrums posed by extraordinary advances in cancer care coming with historic escalation in the cost of care.

I think by partnering with employers, you can help them deliver a deeper sense of what represents optimal care. By aligning optimal care with patients with an immediacy that's hard to navigate in our current system, to allow those insights to help empower better outcomes, but I also believe they can empower more effective finances of health care.

AJMC®: The virtual format is a necessity but also presents opportunities. What features of this year’s format will be helpful to the audience?

Dr Alvarnas: One of the things that I've come to appreciate in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is how machines like the one before me can promote a greater level of connectivity, than sometimes what can be achieved in physical meetings.

One of the things that's always been challenging when I'm at the ASH meeting is running from one session to another. That ability to network, that ability to get questions to the speaker when you're mired in a long line. The technology we have here allows us to have the kind of immediacy that we get under the best of circumstances in small sessions, to allow individuals in the audience to get questions to the speaker in a really efficient way, and to really foster the kinds of communities that we've seen develop online, through everything from Facebook, through Twitter, and Instagram.

Imagine harnessing the insights of patient-centered oncology care, with the immediacy of those kinds of media. I think it's the best of all possible worlds, and I'm looking forward to this meeting as 1 that maybe allows us to kick into a different gear of interaction, kick into a different kind of dialogue or a series of conversations, empowered by this immediacy and this proximity, which paradoxically happens even at a distance.

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