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The US Oncology Network: The Premier Employer for Advanced Practice Providers

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.

In The Network practices, APPs are a vital part of the care team and play a critical role in many different areas, including: follow-up clinic visits, hospital rounds, chemotherapy and symptom management education, monitoring oral therapy patients, research, genetic counseling, and surgery. APPs also introduce and manage advance care planning and survivorship programs to patients, programs that are a major emphasis within The Network and key components of the Oncology Care Model. Additionally, APPs enable patients with urgent, or acute care, needs access to same day appointments, helping them avoid emergency room visits or hospitalization.

Supporting our APPs

Community oncology can be overwhelming, particularly to new APPs who are managing a variety of co-morbidities while trying to stay current on various drugs and treatment guidelines. To help our new APPs get off to a strong start, we offer an intensive orientation on-boarding course three times a year. In addition to learning about current clinical oncologic topics, attendees have the opportunity to network with their peers and develop mentorships.

We are working with the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the Advanced Practitioner Society for Hematology and Oncology (APSHO) and other organizations to develop a comprehensive skills assessment APPs can take every few years to identify areas for personalized learning. We have developed an APP Leadership Academy for current and future APP leaders and expect to enroll the first pilot group this spring. We work to ensure every APP, from the new graduate to the seasoned clinician, has access to the support and educational opportunities they need to grow and succeed.

In addition, we have many resources to help practices properly utilize APPs. Our valuation models show the financial value, as well as the non-billable benefits, that APPs bring to a practice, helping practices understand the tremendous contribution APPs can make to their organization. 

An expanding role for APPS

As value-based cancer care continues to evolve, APPs will become increasingly important. Value-based care―especially the Oncology Care Model―emphasizes reducing costly hospitalization and emergency room visits. APPs can help practices accomplish this by providing patient education, symptom management and access to care when needed. Advance care planning and survivorship are also highlighted in value-based models, and APPs do exceedingly well with leading these important programs. In the future, we will likely see many more bundled payment models, creating a huge opportunity for APPs.

Over the last couple of years, I have seen greater acceptance and improved utilization of APPs across The Network. We will continue to build on this success by expanding into subspecialties, particularly radiation oncology and surgery, and by developing innovative programs and initiatives that help our APPs grow and succeed while finding satisfaction in the important work they do. Our goal is to be recognized as the premiere employer of APPs.