Undeterred by the unseasonably cold weather just a week before spring’s official arrival, nearly 900 cancer care professionals and thought leaders gathered in Washington, DC, for the ACCC 44th Annual Meeting and Cancer Center Business Summit (AMCCBS). This year’s event was particularly notable because it merged two previously separate cancer conferences into one jam-packed event, full of high-quality content, impressive panelists, and lively discussion. Healthcare—particularly oncology—continues to undergo a rapid transformation, and the conference provided a welcome opportunity for attendees to reflect on the changes, learn how others are adapting, and share their own experiences.
ECG was excited to be a conference sponsor and speak on two hot topics at AMCCBS: drug pricing and the regionalization of cancer programs. We’ve summarized four major takeaways from the conference that emerged from various sessions:
1. Technology’s Growing Role in Oncology Presents New Opportunities and Challenges
The broad expanse of information technology (IT) is playing an increasingly important role in informing and organizing care delivery for patients. Some examples include:
- Virtual tumor boards that enable new levels of provider collaboration.
- IT decision-support tools that help providers navigate complex treatment options as personalized medicine continues to revolutionize cancer care.
- Genetic testing technology that allows for better prevention, screening, and treatment of specific cancers at the community level, providing patients with opportunities to receive cutting-edge care closer to home.
At the same time, IT-related frustrations are also at the top of oncology professionals’ minds. As one speaker noted, electronic medical records (EMRs) are increasingly where providers interact with changing healthcare policies, but the lack of interoperability and data-sharing limits their ability to quickly learn and make improvements. Data is most valuable when brought together in meaningful ways; EMRs must better integrate patient data and be easier for providers to use. The AMA and Biden Cancer Institute are at the forefront of this topic, as panelists from both organizations spoke about interoperability initiatives focused on creating data-sharing standards and common EMR language.
2. Successful Innovation Is Driven by Multiple Stakeholders
The conference was full of examples about the importance of ensuring alignment between different stakeholders at the table. On the topic of IT, Flatiron Health spoke about the imperative of bringing software vendors, physicians, and clinical staff together in the system design process. CMMI also acknowledged that some of its current models are too burdensome for providers and stressed the importance of using a multi-stakeholder process to design more user-friendly and affordable new payment models. Another panel discussed the impact and benefit to patients from better integrating workforces and providing team-based care. Lastly, OCM practices underscored the importance of this theme when sharing experiences about implementing a new payment model within their organizations. One practice explained how conflicts are likely to surface when OCM cost-containment goals don’t sync up with a hospital that still runs on fee-for-service.
3. All Eyes Are on Evolving Payment Models
As healthcare payment continues to shift from volume to value, oncology providers are increasingly being incorporated into new reimbursement arrangements. Much of this change is being driven by CMS’s programs such as MACRA and the OCM. The volume of attendees at the conference’s MACRA breakout session, which ended up having standing-room only, illustrates how important it is for oncology practices to get ahead on these models and seek out perspectives on how to best navigate the complexities of participating in value-based arrangements. Specific recommendations included creating strong documentation policies and procedures, using effective technology to ease data collection and reporting, and training staff for the new requirements. Panelists shared broadly available reference materials for practices, such as ASCO’s Top 10 List for Quality Payment Program Participation in 2018, a resource developed to help oncology providers succeed under MIPS.
4. Cost Challenges Aren’t Abating, So Transparency Is Imperative
“Transparency” may have been the most-spoken word of the conference. Rising costs and consumerism in healthcare will drive the need to disrupt current opaque practices around areas such as data, pricing, and quality. The oncology world is no longer sitting back and taking powerful lobbies and difficult legislative action as an answer to why costs are so high. Companies like Value in Cancer Care Consortium are flipping traditional cost-curve bending notions on the head through their innovative low-dose approach to treatment regimens, which may, after additional clinical trials, save millions. Providers are asking payers to be willing to share data and risk rather than function as administrative gatekeepers. Patients are becoming more sophisticated and independent and are increasingly demanding transparency-enabling tools and resources that allow them to be fully engaged and active decision makers.
In stark contrast with the snow flurries outside, this month’s AMCCBS provided a warm and collaborative environment for oncology professionals and industry leaders to come together and address many of the field’s greatest opportunities and challenges. ECG left inspired to continue serving our clients as they work to improve care for oncology patients.