It was very exciting to be invited and included in ASCO’S Quality Care Symposium. ASCO invited patient advocates seeking our input. I was so impressed with how much work is being done to enhance quality standards to improve cancer care. The meeting ranged from big organizations like the MD Anderson model to a small practice run by Carolyn Hendricks MD who is a local expert at Suburban Hospital on breast cancer and ovarian cancer patients.
ASCO has developed a system called “QOPI” (Quality Oncology Practice Initiative) which is a system and standard of practice with guidelines that are helping oncology practices improve their quality care. “QOPI’s goal is to promote excellence in cancer care by helping practices create a culture of self-examination and improvement. The process employed for improving cancer care includes measurement, feedback and improvement tools for hematology-oncology practices.”
The symposium had an incredible panel of speakers. To look for value more attention must be paid to palliative care. Studies were done to try to decrease patients visits to the emergency room. A study was conducted be telephone to follow-up with patients after their chemotherapy treatment by calling and asking about their symptoms. In the study when a nurse practitioner called the patient back to discuss the side effects there was a clear improvement in care and reduced costs of patients having to come back to the office for treatment of theses symptoms. When it comes to end of life issues this is an area that needs much improvement.
Michael Kappel from the National Coalition of Cancer Survivorship spoke from the patient advocate perspective. He said, “for survivors transitions are the problem”. There is a need to accept and allow patients as part of the solution. Patients find themselves seeing many doctors as a result of side effects from their care. To carry out this collaboration, communication, and shared decision-making are necessary. Informed patients make decisions and want to actively be involved in their care.
The good news is that now that we have moved to computer based systems, in the future we will be able to gather so much more data effectively to improve QOPI. Dr. Stephen Edge from Roswell Park Cancer Institute mentioned that collaboration is the key to success in improving quality patient care. This was a running theme from many of the speakers. It is important to listen to patients and put oneself in the patient’s shoes.
When Dr Russel Hoverman mentioned that Beth Israel Medical Center opened their Doctors notes to patients for a short time, I spoke up at the mike that as a patient advocate it would be very helpful for patients to see the oncologist’s notes, not just their lab reports.
It is clear that oncologists are working very hard to improve quality care and they want to include patient advocates in the discussion. ASCO and oncology practices are listening to patient advocates because they recognize our voice has tremendous value in guiding their treatment.