Cancer care crisis hits U.S. healthcare system

The Institute of Medicine has declared a cancer care crisis in the United States, due to a growing demand for cancer care, a shrinking workforce, rising healthcare costs and the increasing complexity of treatment, according to a new report.

An IOM-convened committee of experts found U.S. cancer care is not patient-centered, many patients do not receive palliative care and decisions about care are not always based on the latest scientific evidence.

The committee also pointed to the rapid rise of cancer care costs, which are expected to reach $173 billion by 2020, up from $125 billion in 2010 and $72 billion in 2004. And while the number of people developing cancer is likely to increase 45 percent by 2030, the number of health professionals trained in providing cancer care is on the decline, the IOM report noted.

The IOM's cancer care crisis declaration follows a warning by lawmakers and advocates this spring that Medicare sequester cuts are threatening patient access to cancer treatment. In fact,thousands of Medicare patients already have been turned away from cancer clinics since the cuts took effect April 1, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

"As a nation we need to chart a new course for cancer care. Changes are needed across the board, from how we communicate with patients, to how we translate research into practice, to how we coordinate care and measure its quality," IOM Committee Chair Patricia Ganz, M.D., of the University of California Los Angeles, said in a statement, MedPage Today reported.

A higher quality cancer care delivery system, according to the committee, calls for engaged patients, a coordinated workforce and enhanced evidence-based care and health IT, among other recommendations.

To engage patients, IOM recommends that patients and their families receive understandable information on cancer prognosis, treatment benefits and harms, palliative care, psychosocial support, and costs of care--which cancer care teams can provide via decision aids. Moreover, professional educational programs can offer cancer care team members formal, comprehensive communication training to help them disseminate critical information.

The nation can overcome the cancer care crisis by collecting more extensive and in-depth data on cancer interventions, patient-reported outcomes, patient characteristics and health behaviors, the committee noted. Cancer care delivery organizations must integrate the elements of a learning healthcare IT system, including electronic health records and cancer registries, to enable real-time analysis of that data and inform medical decisions.

To learn more:
- here's the IOM report
- read the MedPage article