More Than 200 Attend AJMC's Patient-Centered Oncology Care; Experts Discuss Cost of Treatment, 'Culture of Medicine'

More than 200 participants gathered in Baltimore for "Patient-Centered Oncology: Real-World Perspectives," which covered genetic testing, how to engage patients in decision-making, and how the "culture of medicine" continues to drive up costs despite calls to abandon the fee-for-service payment model.

More Than 200 Attend AJMC’s Patient-Centered Oncology Care;Experts Discuss Cost of Treatment, “Culture of Medicine”

BALTIMORE, Md. — More than 200 clinicians, health plan executives, pharmaceutical leaders and health policy experts spent 24 hours sharing ideas on how to control the cost of cancer care by listening to patients – and learning everything from family histories to their own treatment goals.

“Patient-Centered Oncology Care: Real-World Perspectives,” sponsored by The American Journal of Managed Care, took place here November 14-15 at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court. The sessions dug deep into questions that are driving both oncology costs and headlines: How to balance patient expectations of what is possible, as new cancer therapies routinely break the six-figure mark? How can health plans save lives while also meeting demands that care be more affordable? Across the sessions, attendees heard the following:

  • Patients may not know what is realistic, because honest conversations about cost, side effects and survival rates of new therapies may not be taking place. However, according to Amy Berman, a nurse who chose palliative care after learning she had stage IV breast cancer, patients chose less aggressive forms of treatment ”when they truly understand their options.”

  • Shifting payment from fee-for-service to rewarding quality care will be hard, because it challenges the “culture of medicine,” according to Dr. Bruce Feinberg, who has created cost-saving cancer pathway models for Cardinal Health. Doctors are trained to treat, and new models contradict thinking that values “new versus old, and more versus less.”

  • The concept of sharing risk in prescribing breakthrough cancer therapies — where the cost is shared among health plans, providers and pharmaceutical companies – was discussed as a way to potentially lower drug costs and prevent health plans from being cast as villains for not wanting to fund expensive, unproven treatments.

  • Genetic testing creates not only opportunities for more precise, cost-effective treatment but also profit-driven abuses if consumers do not receive adequate counseling. Karen Lewis, a genetic counselor for Priority Health, cited research that showed 33 percent of genetic tests were inappropriate.

“We received tremendous feedback from our participants — they appreciated hearing from national experts who came armed not only with data, but also real-life examples of what is happening on the front lines,” said Brian Haug, president of The American Journal of Managed Care. “Those who attended heard stories and met people with whom they could relate.”

Proceedings from the meeting were recorded, and a Special Issue of Evidence-Based Oncology, a news supplement to The American Journal of Managed Care, will be published in December. For information, contact Nicole Beagin, Associate Editorial Director, at

CONTACT: Mary Caffrey (609) 716-7777 x 144 Follow us on Twitter @AJMC_Journal @EBOncology

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