ASCO President-Elect Discusses Strategies for Sustaining an Effective Oncology Careforce at National Academies Workshop

March 13, 2019

On February 11-12, the National Cancer Policy Forum hosted a workshop at the National Academy of Medicine in Washington, DC, entitled “Developing and Sustaining an Effective and Resilient Oncology Careforce.” Over the course of the two-day workshop, ASCO volunteer and staff leadership and several other ASCO members gave presentations and participated in panel discussions. ASCO President-Elect Howard “Skip” Burris, MD, FASCO, discussed his institution’s experiences leveraging organizational culture and leadership to promote change in the oncology careforce.

During his presentation, Dr. Burris discussed how his institution, Sarah Cannon, uses a combination of nurse navigation and clinical pathways to improve quality and efficiency of patient care, reduce redundancy and waste, and increase patient satisfaction. He noted that nurse navigation “focuses on the critical period of vulnerability between diagnosis and definitive treatment” to help educate patients about treatment options and address barriers to care.

Navigation also reduces the amount of time clinicians spend on administrative tasks. Before the Sarah Cannon program was set up, 70% of the nurse navigator’s time was spent on administrative tasks. “Now, 65 percent of their time is spent with the patient or the physician, so we flipped the ratio of [time spent on] paperwork to actually interacting with the patient,” said Dr. Burris. He added that this has resulted in increased patient retention and improved administrative workflow in the practice setting. In addition, Sarah Cannon has implemented pathways to lead to better resource utilization and manage and streamline information available to care providers.

Ms. Suanna S. Bruinooge, Division Director in the ASCO Center for Research and Analytics (CENTRA), spoke about ASCO research on the Current and Projected Trends of the Cancer Careforce. ASCO’s workforce research has focused the supply of oncologists, nurse practitioners, and PAs in oncology care delivery. The Teams in Cancer Care Delivery project ASCO conducted with the National Cancer Institute, also highlighted how clinicians can integrate patients and caregivers into the oncology care team. The consequences of not engaging patients and caregivers could be significant, in light of data from the ASCO 2018 National Cancer Opinion Survey demonstrating widespread misconceptions that cancer can be cured solely through alternative therapies.

Watch the full video of Dr. Burris’ talk and videos of the other presentations from the workshop.

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