Jul 13, 2021
An interview with Kim Woofter, RN from Advanced Centers for Cancer Care and John V. Cox, DO, MBA from UT Southwestern Medical Center, co-chairs on “Oncology Medical Home: ASCO and COA Standards.” They review the standards for the OMH model, which is a system of care delivery that features coordinated, efficient, accessible, evidence-based care and includes a process for measurement of outcomes to facilitate continuous quality improvement. For more information, visit www.asco.org/standards.
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BRITTANY HARVEY: Hello, and welcome to the ASCO Guidelines Podcast Series brought to you by the ASCO Podcast Network, a collection of nine programs covering a range of educational and scientific content and offering enriching insight into the world of cancer care. You can find all the shows, including this one, at podcast.asco.org.
My name is Brittany Harvey, and today I'm interviewing Kim Woofter, RN from the Advanced Centers for Cancer Care in South Bend, Indiana, and John Cox, DO, MBA, from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, co-chairs on Oncology Medical Homes, American Society of Clinical Oncology, and Community Oncology Alliance Standards. Thank you for being here, Ms. Woofter and Dr. Cox.
JOHN COX: You bet.
KIM WOOFTER: Thank you for having us.
BRITTANY HARVEY: I'd like to note that ASCO takes great care in the development of its standards and ensuring that the ASCO conflict of interest policy is followed. The full conflict of interest information for the expert panel is available online with the publication of the standards in JCO Oncology Practice. Ms. Woofter, do you have any relevant disclosures that are directly related to these standards?
KIM WOOFTER: No, I don't have anything to disclose.
BRITTANY HARVEY: Thank you. And Dr. Cox, do you have any relevant disclosures that are related to these standards?
JOHN COX: I do not.
BRITTANY HARVEY: Great. Then let's talk a little bit about these standards. So first, can you give us a general overview of the purpose and scope of these standards for the Oncology Medical Home or OMH model?
KIM WOOFTER: Sure. I'll start this one out. The purpose was to collaboratively define a care delivery system with a standardized set of expectations and goals, and it all centered around the delivery of high quality, cost-effective care. And one of the reasons this is so important to all of us right now is to be ready for value-based care. We all need to really have a care delivery system that's patient-centric and has a standardized set for all of us to follow. Dr. Cox, do you see this any differently, or what would you have to say?
JOHN COX: No, I think you've said it well, Kim. I think one of the challenges we all have when we talk about Oncology Medical Home or a system of care is to be challenged to address that question in a simple answer. I would give the predicate that we have had a blossoming of the complexity of oncology care in our science, yet one of the thorny issues that faces oncology practice is how do we equitably and efficiently provide quality oncology care.
And if you were to challenge many clinicians to define how they provide quality oncology care, you get diverse opinions about that. The Oncology Medical Home certification program and the system of care that Kim highlighted attempts to put forward a comprehensive set of standards that helps us define what quality oncology care looks like and to answer those questions in care delivery.
BRITTANY HARVEY: Great. Then, given that scope, what are the key statements made by the expert panel in these standards?
JOHN COX: I'll take a stab at that, but also offer a little bit of insight into the development of Oncology Medical Home. We actually had some 20 years of history with different medical home certification programs to draw on, including significant contributions by oncologists who have worked in different programs to help define what Oncology Medical Home is. So when we took on this project, a collaborative project between ASCO and the Community Oncology Alliance, COA, we drew upon that great history of previous certification programs.
These programs focused on different aspects of care delivery, including aspects that are focused on improving patient engagement and access to practice, ensuring that evidence-based medicine is provided in a practice, looking at how quality is measured and how that feedback is given to practices and how that feedback is used to have quality improvement programs, focusing on palliative and end-of-life care, and addressing one of the unique features of medical oncology delivery, which is the delivery of chemotherapy and how we do that safely. So this was a very comprehensive set of standards. Kim, I don't know if you want to add to this.
KIM WOOFTER: No, I think you stated that very well. And the piece that I really love about this project, and what we focused heavily on, is the equitable delivery of care. We all fundamentally believe that every cancer patient deserves and has the right to high quality, cost-effective care, and this was just the baseline. And I think Dr. Cox explained it very well, that one of the key elements is the quality improvement process, or the re-evaluation continually of how we deliver care, the outcomes of care, the patient satisfaction with that care.
So as we developed this, we knew this was just the foundation. This is the starting point. We've brought some unity around the discussion. We've used evidence to come up with these standards and really defined what's gone on prior to this time. And what's exciting is this is just the beginning of what will evolve over the years to come.
BRITTANY HARVEY: Great. It sounds like this is a really comprehensive document. So I'm reading through the standards. It looks like there's a little bit of a deeper dive on two subcomponents of the OMH model-- first, clinical pathways, and second, survivorship care plans. How do the standards address these two?
JOHN COX: Oh, I'll dive in first again. And not to step on Kim at all about this, but many of the listeners to this podcast will be very familiar with ASCO guideline development. And the traditional clinical guidelines are completely infused and based on an evaluation of what the evidence base is. Care delivery is a bit more complex. Much of care delivery focuses on best practices that have been learned in practice through trial and error-- observation, if you will.
So many of the standards that are in Oncology Medical Home certifications are really based on best practices. However, we knew that we would be challenged to evaluate those standards that had significant cost or significant resource dedication in a practice. If we were going to build those aspects of a certification program forward as being a best practice in a care delivery model, we would need to justify, or at least examine, what evidence base is present to show that it had value.
Two of the most consequential standards that are going to require significant resource development by any practice is the measurement of evidence base through a pathway program. The other one was the significant discussion that has been around survivorship and survivorship care plans. So those two areas of the standards we took a deep dive in in this process. Kim, do you want to add to this?
KIM WOOFTER: Yeah. I really appreciate Dr. Cox's description. He's spot on, as always. I think having managed to practice myself for many, many years, the struggle with the implementation of a clinical pathway program and survivorship care plans or for survivorship program have always been somewhat difficult. And what I love about the standards is we clearly define that pathways are no longer a homegrown list of what I like to do or how I like to treat. It is absolutely evidence-based. Your pathways have to truly reflect the importance of clinical research and what that has done to lead up to the intelligence of that delivery.
What I think is so important, too, is ASCO still did a little bit of work and set the pathway for us on this in that it needs to be a comprehensive list. It needs to have systematic review. We have to demonstrate adherence to pathways and also document when somebody goes off a pathway. And I think that's very important as you manage a practice and as you prepare for this delivery system. It's no longer what we do in the back room. It's very well-defined and very measurable.
As far as survivor care plans, I love that we have migrated a little bit on this standard. I think the nation has migrated. Over the years-- and I'll include the COC in this discussion. Originally, it was check the box, have a survivorship care plan and a visit to explain what the future would look like. And we now know that isn't the best way to handle survivorship.
Patient satisfaction and outcomes are much better when we have a survivorship program. And that's what the standard calls out. It is not just a care plan or a piece of paper. It is support. It is ongoing evaluation of the patient. It's integration with the primary care and when to transition back to primary care. So what's exciting is it is now a program versus just a care plan.
BRITTANY HARVEY: Thank you both for explaining the evidence-based reasoning behind those two components. So then you've both noted earlier the importance of these standards for quality oncology care. So why are these standards important, and how will their implementation impact clinicians?
KIM WOOFTER: I'll jump in to why I think they're important-- and I think the whole industry, the whole ecosystem of oncology care thinks they're important-- is we need standardization. We need real, evidence-based standardization. And we need to prepare ourselves in all settings-- community oncology practice settings, academic settings-- for the value-based care that we're going to be required to deliver every day, all day. And clinicians, I believe, will embrace this. They'll embrace this because it's taken away some of the ambiguity of what care delivery should look like, and it levels the playing field, if you will.
It also helps with the dialogue with patients and their employers. I think we could all argue that patients and employers are the ultimate payers. And they now have a mechanism by which they can evaluate, am I getting the highest quality, most affordable care? And these Oncology Medical Home standards will be the foundation for that discussion. And I'm excited that everyone will be involved in that discussion. So I think that's why they're very important.
BRITTANY HARVEY: Great. And then, finally, how will these standards impact patients?
JOHN COX: Well, I think our whole goal in delivering efficient and quality oncology care is to be very patient focused. I would underline that this entire concept of an Oncology Medical Home is built around a patient centered care. So every standard that this program identifies has the patient at the center of care. And I think anybody who reads through the standards can see that every aspect of this is focused on some issue that they can relate to patients in their practice stumbling over.
We have this wonderful technology of care. But right now, I would challenge oncology practice universally that as our science has become more complex, patients are having to jump through more hoops to get that quality care. Specialization breeds fragmentation. What we want this program to do is to define what a oncology practice must do to help that patient have a coordinated care approach for all aspects of their cancer journey.
And I want to come back and just put a coda, a real strong statement, is this is a care delivery system. We are trying to take as comprehensive view of the delivery of oncology practice in the certification program as we can. It's not intended to parse. It's intended to focus on the patient and to provide a comprehensive system of care.
The other challenge is we know that the only way there can be efficient and easily accessible practices that can provide this kind of care is that they be adequately funded. And though this certification program does not speak to funding directly-- this is about the quality of care delivery-- we wanted to build a program that payers in industry could look at and build their reimbursement systems around. We hope that as new reimbursement models, alternative payment models come to bare, that if practices are pursuing this certification program, they will be able to meet the demands of the payer and apply this toward a comprehensive, meeting the standards of any alternative payment program.
And to that end, I really want to defer maybe a little more discussion of this to Kim. Kim, we sort of present two ends of the barbell, if you will, of care delivery. I, a practitioner, Kim is on the point of the sword in dealing with her practice about the reimbursement issues and contracting. So when we talk about this, what is the impact for patients?
Part of that is recognizing that patients have insurance. They have employers. They have people who are paying for this care. And that's really important to address. Kim, I'm long-winded. Maybe I'm trying to wrap too much into this answer. But I'll let you add to the issues of reimbursement and how this affects patients.
KIM WOOFTER: Well, thank you, Dr. Cox. You're never too long-winded. I always love to hear you speak, and your insight is spot on. And I think, from a patient's perspective, what's exciting about this program is it engages and empowers patients right from the beginning. You'll see, very well spelled out in the standards, that one of the requirements is that you educate that patient about what an Oncology Medical Home really means, what the components are. And that empowerment of the patient allows them to be part of the voice for quality oncology.
As we work with their payers, their employers, the patient themselves understand the value of what we are doing in collaboration. They understand that we provide them access, 24/7 access, you'll see, as part of the requirement. And they understand very well and can help us communicate to everybody in the ecosystem that this comprehensive package is what gives them the highest quality, allows them, like I said, the most access. It allows them safe chemo delivery. And as they communicate that, it will become the desired standard.
The patient is absolutely the ultimate winner here. Everything we do as clinicians and administrators is based around the patient. Outcomes, satisfaction, end-of-life initiatives. And I believe by putting this comprehensively and well-defined into one set of standards, we have helped the patient to achieve that goal.
BRITTANY HARVEY: Well, it sounds like these standards will have a real positive impact for patients and quality oncology care delivery. So I want to thank you both for your work on the development of these Oncology Medical Home standards and for taking the time to speak with me today, Dr. Cox and Ms. Woofter.
KIM WOOFTER: It was our pleasure.
JOHN COX: It's our pleasure.
BRITTANY HARVEY: And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning into the ASCO Guidelines Podcast Series. To read the standards, go to www.asco.org/standards. If you have enjoyed what you've heard today, please rate and review the podcast. And be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode.