Tennessee Oncology Named State’s First Blue Distinction Center for Cancer Care

The multisite practice receives a key designation from a major and announces it is formally taking over a proton therapy center where its radiation oncologists already serve patients.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BlueCross) has granted Tennessee Oncology its Blue Distinction® Centers for Cancer Care designation as part of the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program, the practice announced today.

Tennessee Oncology earned the designation by incorporating patient-centered and data-driven practices to better coordinate cancer care while improving quality and safety, under a value-based payment model. Blue Distinction Centers for Cancer Care are reimbursed based on how they perform against both quality and cost outcome targets. This allows the practice to receive incentives and rewards for better health outcomes, rather than traditional fee-for-service. Care delivery transformation to improve quality and affordability has been most successful when accompanied by transformation to a value-based payment model.



“Our commitment to innovation and patient-centered care have always been core to the culture of Tennessee Oncology. Tennessee Oncology’s recognition as a Blue Distinction Center for Cancer Care will contribute to this mission,” said Natalie Dickson, MD, president and chief strategy officer, Tennessee Oncology. “The current era of personalized medicine is especially encouraging for our patients and clinicians. However, affordability will continue to be a major challenge. This Blue Distinction Center for Cancer Care designation will allow us to better serve our Tennesee Oncology patients and BlueCross members.”

By combining nationally consistent quality criteria with locally effective value-based programs, Blue Distinction Centers for Cancer Care deliver maximum value to members battling cancer by aligning health care payments with improved health outcomes. The designation is available for all cancer types and various care settings, including physician groups, cancer centers, hospitals, and accountable care organizations (ACOs).

The Blue Distinction designation builds on a partnership created in 2021, when Tennessee Oncology and BlueCross launched a value-based care program to support the highest-quality, cost-effective cancer care for individuals who buy coverage on and those who receive coverage through their employer. This oncology medical home partnership, an evolution of the Clinically Integrated Alliance established in 2020 with Ascension Saint Thomas, is designed to follow BlueCross members at all phases of their cancer journey from diagnosis through treatment and follow-up, reflecting evidence-based best practices in comprehensive, patient centered cancer care.

“BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is pleased to congratulate Tennessee Oncology on this designation, which represents another dimension to our unique partnership,” said Andrea Willis, MD, MPH, chief medical officer for BlueCross of Tennessee. “This recognition provides BlueCross members with the peace of mind they need when making decisions regarding medical treatment.”

“Cancer patients are unique, and so is the care that they receive,” said Jennifer Atkins, MBA, vice president of network solutions for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. “They often receive different kinds of specialized care in multiple settings with perhaps surgery at a distant medical center but chemotherapy at a local hospital or physician office. Medical professionals and facilities designated as Blue Distinction Centers for Cancer Care provide coordinated patient care and communication under a value based payment model.”

Since 2006, the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program has helped patients find quality specialty care in the areas of bariatric surgery, cancer care, cardiac care, knee and hip replacements, maternity care, spine surgery and transplants while encouraging health care professionals to improve the care they deliver.

According to the American Cancer Society, there were more than 42,000 new cancer diagnoses in Tennessee in 2022. Roughly 18,000 BlueCross members diagnosed with cancer undergo chemotherapy every year, with average claims of $75,000 for six months of treatment. These trends underscore the importance of collaborative efforts to address the rising costs of cancer treatment for members and employers.

Tennessee Oncology adds Proton Therapy Services

On Monday, Tennessee Oncology, one of the largest oncology practices in the country, announced it had entered into a lease for the operation of the Proton Therapy Center, in Franklin, Tennessee and previously known as Provision Cares Proton Therapy Center. Tennessee Oncology radiation oncologists have led care since the center opened in October 2018. Patient care will continue with the same Tennessee Oncology physicians, care teams and support staff. Appointments and treatments remain as scheduled. The center will be known as the Tennessee Oncology Proton Center.

Proton therapy is the most advanced form of radiation therapy, to target and treat cancerous tumors, while minimizing radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissues and organs. “This innovative radiation treatment center perfectly aligns with Tennessee Oncology’s mission and values to deliver the most leading therapy options known,” said James Gray, MD, Medical Director, Tennessee Oncology Proton Center.

“Tennessee Oncology’s added service line of proton therapy will immediately benefit current and new patients with our most comprehensive and robust suite of cancer support services available. The emotional and daily life stress of a cancer diagnosis and treatment extends to family and caregivers,” stated Dickson. “Both physical and psychosocial side effects can be lessened or alleviated with additional care disciplines, continual health equity awareness and education in the many communities served.”

OneOncology, the national platform partner of Tennessee Oncology, coordinated the real estate transaction and strategic and capital advisory services. “Expanding services across the continuum of care is a core OneOncology strategy that helps our partner practices continually innovate and deliver cutting-edge care to their patients,” said Jeff Patton, MD, CEO, OneOncology. “We’re proud to play a role to ensure patients have access to proton therapy in our community.”

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