Many independent oncology clinics closed or acquired by hospitals

The consolidation trend that has impacted independent physician practices across the country has also been seen in the oncology field.

Over the last decade, 1,653 community oncology clinics and practices have either closed, been acquired by hospitals, undergone corporate mergers or reported that they are struggling financially, according to a report from the Community Oncology Alliance.

When it comes to cancer care in the U.S., a decadelong move toward closure and consolidation of independent clinics has resulted in a shift to the more expensive hospital setting, the Alliance said.

At least 423 individual clinic treatment sites have been closed from 2008 to 2018, the report said. Another 658 practices, which are typically comprised of multiple clinic sites, have been acquired by hospitals or entered into contracts with hospitals, and 168 practices have merged or been acquired by a corporate entity.

The report found an average of 3.5 community oncology practices have closed per month, a rate that has been consistent since the group’s last report in 2016. Overall 13.8 practices per month have been affected by closures, hospital acquisitions and corporate mergers since 2008.

Oncologists blame the 340B drug discount program for hospitals and Medicare sequester-related cuts to Part B for the consolidation.

“The shifting and shrinking community cancer care system reduces access to cancer care, inflates spending at the more expensive hospital setting and is a disservice to patients, their caregivers, and support networks,” said Jeff Vacirca, M.D., CEO of New York Cancer Specialists and president of COA.

Hospital-acquired and owned oncology practices contribute to the ever-rising costs for cancer drugs, according to a 2014 report issued by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

What’s happening in the oncology field reflects what has happened across healthcare. A report earlier this year found there’s been no slowdown in the trend toward physician employment, as new data shows that hospitals acquired 5,000 independent physician practices in a 12-month period.