Space Coast Cancer Center Focuses on Oncology

By Michelle Cannon Epting

In answer to the current nationwide discussion of the Affordable Care Act and its impact on both patients and providers, the Space Coast Cancer Center hosted a public conference at the Melbourne Hilton Rialto Place. The conference, entitled “Innovation Improving Value in Healthcare – Accent on Cancer,” was directed at questions, needs and concerns of the oncology community. The conference featured 10 speakers from the medical, pharmaceutical, and insurance communities, as well as cancer survivors who presented patient perspectives.

The conference shared information on trends and new care models of cancer management with employers, insurance company representatives, and the public. According to Jim Koehler, Professor of Pharmacy Medicine in Oncology, University of Texas, cancer management costs represent 10 to 15 percent of healthcare costs and far outweigh the incidence of cancer diagnosed in the employed population, which is 0.5 percent. The high cost of cancer care is driven by expensive medications, required hospitalizations and emergency department visits, and frequent diagnostic imaging studies to monitor the patient’s condition.

Sergio Fleites, Market Access Specialty Reimbursement Manager at Sanofi Aventis, presented an analysis of the cost of chemotherapy for major tumor types. He illustrated that hospital based outpatient practices consistently are associated with a higher cost of chemotherapy as compared to independent community oncologists. He presented a study showing how this affects patient out-of-pocket costs, as well as the impact on insurance premiums paid by the employer and employee.

The community oncologists have responded to these challenges by creating new and improved clinical pathways, as well as establishing quality metrics and outcome studies. One solution has been the establishment of the Oncology Medical Home, a model for improving access and measuring the quality of the care patients receive. Using evidence-based medicine to ensure quality outcomes, the model focuses on the patient and addresses the needs of providers and payers by increasing coordination and efficiency.

High Quality, Low Cost

In the Oncology Medical Home model the goal is to provide the highest quality and lowest cost global cancer management. Improvement to care results from measuring and benchmarking treatment results against other care facilities to ensure that the best practices deliver the best care.

One of the main benefits of the conference was to educate the audience about potential cost savings of new treatment pathways, the evidence-based medicine and predictable costs associated with these pathways, and, in the not too distant future, the reporting of quality studies and survival rates of physicians and facilities that care for cancer patients.

More than 40 people attended the conference, representing local businesses, insurance company representatives, pharmaceutical
representatives and the general public. Space Coast Cancer Center will host a second conference in the fall of this year to further address issues related to healthcare reform and cancer management. As advocates for their patients, physicians and the healthcare team strive to collaborate with employers and insurance companies to ensure that cancer patients continue to have access to high quality medical care in the future, despite increasing out-of-pocket costs to the patients, limitations on medication formularies, and insurance companies narrowing their network (limited physician participation in their health plans), which decreases patients’ access, convenience, choice, and potentially quality of care.

“This conference was a unique opportunity for Brevard County employers to review some of the obvious challenges of the new Healthcare Reform laws and landscape and to explore real strategies and innovative healthcare solutions to cancer,” Gerry Thistle, moderator, Vice-President of Willis of Florida said. “When you consider the total spent on cancer treatment and the overall cost to businesses for absenteeism and disability, having a proactive plan in place for an employee facing cancer is just prudent. The attendees of the conference were given real tools and proactive solutions in order to develop a compassionate response and best practice for their employees diagnosed with cancer.”

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