May 30, 2019
Proton therapy is an advanced radiation therapy that uses protons to treat cancer rather than x-rays. Protons deliver the majority of their energy directly into the tumor and stop, minimizing exposure to adjacent healthy tissue. X-rays used in standard radiotherapy continue through the tumor, exposing patients to unnecessary radiation that can result in both short-and long-term side effects and secondary tumors.Read More
September 26, 2018
Approximately 90% of oncology patients require a complete blood count (CBC) when they visit their oncologist for the first time. The CBC is used to evaluate a patient’s overall health and detect a wide range of disorders, including anemia, infection and leukemia.1 The test is especially critical in oncology, where cell counts can help guide important and time-sensitive treatment decisions, including whether to start or stop chemotherapy, identify if a patient needs a blood transfusion, or to make sure a patient’s bone marrow is functioning properly. In fact, nearly 70% of clinical decisions, including diagnosis and treatment, are based on CBC results.2
On-site lab allows for convenience and speedRead More
July 17, 2018
By Marcus Neubauer, MD | July 2018
Since July of 2016, roughly 187 oncology practices across the country have been participating in the Oncology Care Model (OCM), the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation’s (CMMI) new program designed to reduce the cost of care while improving quality and patient outcomes. Sixteen practices in The US Oncology Network (The Network) are participating in this care delivery/payment model, providing enhanced care to thousands of Medicare patients.
The Oncology Care Model is a very complex program, and there is a definite learning curve for practices trying to implement it. From input gathered so far across The Network, as well as from my own experience with the OCM, there are some critical activities that must be performed well to ensure success with the program.
Key Activities when Participating in the OCMRead More
June 11, 2018
By David C. Fryefield, MD | June 2018
Radiation oncologists have been operating in a very challenging landscape for quite some time―one that has created unpredictable revenue streams for providers and made the delivery of quality care more difficult. Providers are under pressure from payers to reduce the number of treatments based on clinical trials demonstrating fewer treatments are as effective as a larger number in certain cancers. Innovative technologies are now part of the radiation oncologist’s toolkit, but these advances are driving up costs. As a result, prior authorization requirements and denials have greatly increased, dramatically impacting revenue and hindering the timely delivery of quality care.
New Payment Models Reduce UncertaintiesRead More
May 15, 2018
Those of us in the cancer community know that progress in the fight against cancer is often measured in very small steps. Certainly since I finished my fellowship, that has been the case. Over the last 30 years, treatment for many deadly cancers has usually involved substituting one chemotherapy drug for another, buying a patient time while increasing the cure rate by a mere percentage point or two.Read More
April 27, 2018
Community oncology practices today face an increasingly complex web of government rules and regulations that can often inhibit practice success or viability. This complexity is having a direct impact on access to quality cancer care. Eleven years ago, when I began my journey with The US Oncology Network (The Network), nearly 88% of all cancer care was delivered in the outpatient community setting. Today that figure is closer to 50%. This migration away from the community setting has a measurable impact on the healthcare ecosystem as hospital care is much more expensive for patients and payers. Conversely, helping community practices flourish is beneficial not only to patients and independent providers, but also to other key stakeholders in the cancer community. In today’s “value-driven” environment, it doesn’t make sense to continue enacting rules and regulations that accelerate this shift to the more expensive, less coordinated setting.
The Network Government Relations Team Is Hard at Work Protecting Community Cancer CareRead More
March 26, 2018
Oncology is dramatically different today than when I entered the field 12 years ago. Practices are experiencing seismic changes in their environment and facing complex issues not previously encountered. While we cannot control the volatile landscape, strategic planning enables practices to prepare for what is coming, to take advantage of opportunities, and to set a direction for the practice that will position them for success.
Building a roadmap to the futureRead More
February 2, 2018
Advanced Practice Providers (APPs) play a vital role in supporting practices across The US Oncology Network (The Network) delivering high quality care to patients. APPs are healthcare providers, including Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants, who have advanced education and are licensed in the state where they practice, and certified nationally. In oncology, these highly trained professionals work collaboratively with physicians, expanding and enhancing the care physicians provide patients.
The Network APP Program
Since joining The Network in 2015, I have seen substantial growth in our APP program. We now have nearly 400 of these highly skilled professionals working in a variety of specialties in nearly every practice across The Network. Most work in medical oncology, but we have growing numbers in surgical subspecialties and radiation oncology.
The overarching mission of APPs in The Network is to allow practices to see a high volume of patients while continuing to deliver quality care to everyone.Read More
January 11, 2018
By Barry Brooks, MD | January 2018
To remain strong and viable in today’s evolving healthcare landscape, practices must continually forge new relationships, embrace innovative tools and technologies, and seek more efficient ways of doing business and delivering care.
One of the most important developments I have seen over my career is the growing importance of group purchasing organizations (GPOs) and the increasing value they provide to community oncology. A GPO is an independent organization that contracts with pharmaceutical and biotechnology manufacturers to obtain discounted pricing on drugs and services on behalf of its membership.
Unity GPO: The leader in community oncologyRead More
November 29, 2017
By Diana Verrilli | November, 2017
Over the last several years, many promising new cancer therapies have come to the forefront. The pipeline of new cancer drugs has never been richer, and exciting new developments in radiation technologies are providing new innovative treatments that are more precise and effective than ever before.
Unfortunately, these potentially life-saving therapies come with a very high price tag. For instance, Opdivo, a drug that treats certain types of lung cancer after conventional chemotherapy has failed, costs about $150,000 for the initial treatment, and then $14,000 a month for ongoing therapy.1 The yearly outlay for Keytruda, an immune boosting therapy, totals over $152,000.2 New cancer drugs will be even more expensive in the future, as drug costs are projected to grow 7.5 % to 10.5 % annually through 2020.3 The price could easily reach several hundred thousand dollars for a course of treatment for many of the new drugs currently in clinical trials.Read More
November 3, 2017
By Neelima Denduluri, M.D. | October, 2017
In my career as a medical oncology and breast cancer specialist, I have seen great advancements in the treatment of breast cancer with innovative new drugs and therapy. The outlook for breast cancer patients has never been better, as promising new developments are leading to more effective preventative strategies and late-stage treatments.Read More
September 29, 2017
I’ve seen great advancements occur over the last several decades in diagnostic imaging and radiation therapy, and today they are vital components of cancer care. Roughly 60 percent of patients undergo radiation and, as technology advances, there may be even more uses for it in the future.
How radiation therapy is used
Radiation therapy is the primary treatment modality in many cancers. Head and neck cancers are a good example. Radiation alone without chemotherapy is highly effective in small and medium sized oropharyngeal and laryngeal carcinomas, preserving voice and swallowing function while treating the cancer.
Similarly, prostate cancer can be successfully treated with radiation. Patients with small cancers, as well as those who have locally advanced prostate cancer, have an increased risk of incontinence and impotence after a radical prostatectomy. By combining hormone therapy, external beam radiation, or internal beam radiation (brachytherapy), continence and erectile function can usually be maintained.
August 30, 2017
Public awareness of hereditary cancer syndromes has come to the forefront over the last several years, due in part to celebrity disclosures. Community-based oncology practices play an increasingly important role in identifying patients and families who are at hereditary risk for cancer.
Preventing cancer, not just treating it
Genetic testing is an important part of comprehensive cancer care. Testing is an opportunity to provide cancer prevention strategies to patients with a hereditary risk of cancer. A defined genetic risk evaluation program enables practices to do more than just treat the disease. For many people that carry mutations, there are both preventative and patient management consensus guidelines for their care. Likewise, some patients whose testing does not reveal a hereditary mutation may still require a management plan based upon their family history.Read More
July 18, 2017
July 1 marks the one year anniversary of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) Oncology Care Model (OCM), a bold new program focused on providing higher quality, more coordinated cancer care for Medicare beneficiaries with attention on managing costs. The program provides upfront payments to fund practice transformation with the expectation that practices will use these funds to provide enhanced services to patients, submit quality metrics and learn from data sharing.Read More
June 19, 2017
Many physicians and clinicians across The US Oncology Network (“The Network”) have just returned from the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Annual Meeting. As one of the largest cancer meetings in the world, this event brings together more than 35,000 oncology professionals from around the globe. This year’s conference was very energizing, highlighting many promising new therapies and care strategies, while enabling networking opportunities with some of the brightest minds in oncology research and cancer care.
The conference also enables us to meet with our pharma partners. We had several meetings with manufacturers about drugs in their development pipeline, with discussions focusing on how we might accelerate the completion of their trials to speed FDA approval or approval for new indications. Additionally, we identified about 40 new clinical trials we might participate in with our pharma partners in the upcoming year.Read More
May 4, 2017
May is Oncology Nursing Month, a time set aside to honor our special medical professionals who have dedicated their careers to serving cancer patients. There are many different types of oncology nurses throughout The US Oncology Network (“The Network”), including those who work in infusion, radiation, surgery, gynecology, research and management, as well as nurse navigators and patient educators.
Oncology nurses make a difference in patients’ lives every day by being their advocate and educator, guiding them through treatment, celebrating their victories, and providing comfort in times of need―all while ensuring the patient receives the best care possible. The US Oncology Network thanks all of our compassionate, highly-skilled professionals who not only provide exemplary physical care, but also offer psychosocial support to patients and their families throughout the care continuum.
Focus on Nurse NavigationRead More
April 18, 2017
There is no denying this is a difficult time to be an oncologist. We are in unknown territory with the current political and economic climate. Fortunately, those of us in The US Oncology Network (“The Network”) are not facing today’s challenging environment alone. We have the expertise and resources of The Network behind us, including the collective knowledge and strength of our 1,400 member physicians.
On April 6-7, The Network, which is a physician-led organization, gathered once again for our annual conference. This is our biggest event of the year-- a time when our leaders, physicians, clinicians and pharmacists come together to discuss new developments in The Network and critical issues that have an impact on oncology community.Read More
March 3, 2017
You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you’re standing still, you’re moving backwards.” This certainly is true for healthcare providers today, especially community oncologists. Complex healthcare regulations, declining reimbursements, rising overhead and increasing demands for quality reporting are changing the face of the oncology practice.
For a community oncology practice to remain viable and successful in this challenging environment, it must not only respond to the rapid changes in the healthcare landscape, it must stay ahead of the curve. While we don’t have a crystal ball to see what’s coming next in cancer care, The US Oncology Network (“The Network”), a physician-led organization, does have the collective expertise and knowledge of over 1,400 member physicians to help us define and anticipate future trends.Read More