New Commission on Cancer Standards Provide More Patient Centered Care
In the Fall of 2011, the American College of Surgeon’s (ACoS) Commission on Cancer(CoC) released new accreditation standards for oncology practices. While the existing standards outlined specific guidelines to plan the treatment of patients with cancer to achieve the best possible outcomes, they didn’t address patient needs outside of direct intervention. As with most of the new health care rules and regulations, a more patient-centered approach is the driving factor influencing the new guidelines.
Established by the ACoS in 1922, the CoC is a consortium of professional organizations dedicated to improving the survival and quality of life of cancer patients. The commission is made up of 100 individuals who are either surgeons or representatives from 49 national professional organizations affiliated with the CoC. More than 1500 cancer programs across the US are accredited members of the CoC, which provides national recognition for establishing performance measures for the provision of high-quality cancer care, benchmark reports to compare quality of care and performance, and public awareness through CoC marketing efforts about where to receive quality cancer care.
2012 Commission on Cancer Standards Overview
The previous version of the standards was released in 2004, and was revised in 2005 and again in 2009. The standards have historically focused on the structure needed to ensure high quality care and the process to provide active cancer treatment. These areas remain a key focus, but the 2012 standards contain three new patient centered standards to enhance the cancer care experience for all patients.
- Patient navigation process to assist patients to obtain the proper assessment and treatment and address barriers to care.
- Screening patients for psychosocial distress and providing resources to help patients cope.
- Treatment summary and survivorship care plan for each patient who completes initial treatment.
Additional new standards include:
- Palliative care services.
- Risk assessment and genetic counseling.
- Performance levels for specific quality measures based on national standards.
These new standards will be phased in over a three-year period (January 1, 2015) to give practices time to plan and implement them. This three-year period parallels the Meaningful Use objectives timeline, which also seeks to provide a more patient centered approach to health care by using technology to give patients access to their personal health records.
How Technology Can Help Practices Achieve Commission on Cancer Standards
As with Meaningful Use, technology will play a central role in helping practices engage patients in their care while tracking and measuring performance on key patient centered care measures. In addition, technology can help improve efficiency as new programs are adopted and implemented as a regular part of a practices workflow.
While the most pressing need for oncology practices is to implement technology solutions to help solve Meaningful Use, practice administrators should also keep in mind other programs that new technology could benefit.
For example, our Patient Engagement Portal includes a health-tracking tool for patients to record psychosocial measures such as anxiety, energy and stress. Patients can easily share this information with their healthcare team, which allows clinic staff to be alerted sooner to potential issues so they may intervene when necessary, even if it’s between appointments. Over time this data can be used to measure performance to see if patients are experiencing less psychosocial distress as practices implement initiatives to address specific issues.
As patients identify specific issues, the Patient Engagement Portal has a robust library of expert resources that can be shared with them via private message to help them cope. If a practice has outside providers they refer patients to for palliative care or genetic counseling, they can have them stored in their clinic resource library and ready to send to patients and/or their caregivers when appropriate.
When patients see outside specialists during treatment, the Patient Engagement Portal can be used to generate and send a treatment care summary. This can also be used when patients complete their cancer journey and transition back to their primary care physician.
In addition, because our Patient Engagement Portal is built on a web-based platform, our development team has the ability to create and deploy specific features to support patient navigation and survivorship programs as they become more defined.
Think Big Picture
While the most pressing need for oncology practices is to implement technology solutions to help solve Meaningful Use, practice administrators should also keep in mind other programs that new technology could benefit. In addition to the 2012 Commission on Cancer standards, Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) and Accountable Care Organization (ACO) payer models also require more patient engagement to reduce overall costs, which technology can help facilitate.
When evaluating technology options, practices should be looking for a solution designed specifically for oncology clinics that enables them to engage patients in multiple ways that helps them meet patient centered care standards for a number of programs, not just Meaningful Use. Navigating Cancer’s Patient Engagement Portal is the only solution that meets all the aforementioned needs.