The more than 1,000 oncologists who volunteer their time and talent to serve on American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Committees, Task Forces, and Work Groups represent the lifeblood of the world’s leading professional organization representing physicians who care for people with cancer. On top of demanding professional lives, these dedicated medical professionals contribute tens of thousands of hours to help guide ASCO’s current activities and future direction.
The following profile of ASCO’s Clinical Practice Committee is the first in a series of articles designed to help ASCO members better understand the role that volunteers serve and the critical work in which committee members are engaged.
With rising healthcare costs, cancer drug shortages, competitive forces, regulatory requirements, insurer restrictions, and many other pressures facing today’s oncology practice, it has never been more important for oncologists to work together to shape the future of the United States healthcare system—especially, the delivery of high-quality, high-value oncology care.
The need for clear, expansive thinking on complex issues is exactly why ASCO established its Clinical Practice Committee (CPC). Through advocacy, analysis, and direct assistance to members, the CPC is at the forefront of some of the most challenging concerns of the day—from physician payment reform, the sustainable growth rate, and patient-centered medical homes to the Medicare physician fee schedule and parity for oral chemotherapy.
“A CPC that is firing on all cylinders intersects with all other ASCO Committees and will impact the professional lives of every clinician providing care for cancer patients, regardless of the care setting,” said Jeffery C. Ward, MD, Chair of the Clinical Practice Committee. “As such, CPC membership is diverse in a deliberate attempt to represent all of ASCO, and the work is essential, exhilarating, and often intimidating.”
Composed of Presidential Appointees, liaisons from other professional medical societies, and ASCO representatives to American Medical Association (AMA) bodies, the Clinical Practice Committee provides input and advice on the myriad policy issues affecting the practice of oncology across a variety of practice settings.
To ensure that the vast range of issues facing today’s oncology practice receives adequate and thoughtful deliberation, the CPC recently established four workgroups that provide substantive input and analyses on the following specific areas: (1) payment reform; (2) coding, billing and reimbursement; (3) practice trends and economics; and (4) practice policy and emerging issues. Each of these workgroups, which meets regularly to discuss issues in-depth, is comprised of a subset of CPC members and additional professionals from across the country who bring specific expertise and knowledge needed for the respective workgroup’s agenda.
“Practicing oncologists are on the front lines facing a quickly changing medical science landscape and the realities of healthcare costs for our patients,” said Anupama Kurup, MD, CPC Chair-Elect. “I find the interaction with the talented and experienced CPC members a vital part of being a well-informed oncologist who seeks to ensure quality care for her patients.”
Physician payment reform tops a full 2012-2013 agenda for the Clinical Practice Committee, reflecting many significant threats to Medicare coverage of cancer care together with a growing Congressional interest in payment reform. The Committee has adopted the following set of “Guiding Principles for Payment Reform” to help steer ASCO’s ongoing analysis of and advocacy for fair and reliable Medicare reimbursement of oncology care.
Guiding Principles for Payment Reform
1. Assure every cancer patient has access to high quality, high-value, evidence-based care.
2. Protect patients’ needs and wishes through shared decision-making with their physicians.
3. Further develop and uphold the practice standards for the medical profession.
4. Support system-wide reforms and improvements that keep pace with the evolution of the health care system.
“When Congress begins to consider alternative payment models, we need to be at the table making sure that any new approach preserves patient access to high-quality cancer care,” said Roscoe F. Morton, MD, CPC Immediate Past Chair. “The guiding principles are a first step in ensuring that oncologists play a pivotal role in shaping the future of oncology practice and the care provided to cancer patients going forward.”
The other three CPC workgroups are working on a diverse range of key practice issues, including coding and billing developments, the hospital outpatient prospective payment system, the role of physician assistants in oncology, and the National Oncology Census—ASCO’s landmark initiative to assess the current state of oncology care in the United States.
Recognizing the time-sensitive and evolving nature of many clinical practice issues, CPC leadership keeps its agenda moving forward through weekly conference calls, in-person meetings and webinars held throughout the year, as well as many additional meetings held by the workgroups.
This continuous interaction and dialogue helps ensure that the CPC leadership stays abreast of the ever-changing policy landscape and can confidently provide input to the ASCO Board of Directors and advise staff on policy developments that may impact oncology practice.
“This committee presents the opportunity to lead oncology in rejecting apathy and shaping our own future in ways that are both myriad and tangible,” said CPC Chair Dr. Ward.
In addition to collaborating with other ASCO committees, such as the Government Relations Committee and the Quality of Care Committee, CPC members also work closely with representatives from other medical organizations—including the American Medical Association, the American Society of Hematology, the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists—to ensure that ASCO’s positions are fully articulated and represented throughout the medical community and that ASCO is instrumental in developing broad consensus on key issues.
In addition to Drs. Ward, Kurup, and Morton, current CPC members include William Biermann, MD; Patricia S. Braly, MD; Melissa S. Dillmon, MD: Andrew Allan Hertler, MD; Richard C. Lauer, MD; Joanne E. Mortimer, MD; Therese M. Mulvey, MD; Jeffrey Patton, MD; Linda Van Le, MD; Carolyn D. Runowicz, MD; and Dan Zuckerman, MD. External committee liaisons include John Emmett Hennessy (AOHA Administrators in Oncology/Hematology Assembly); John Vernon Cox, DO, Journal of Oncology Practice Editor; Thomas J. Eichler, MD (American Society of Radiation Oncology/ASTRO); David H. Regan, MD, (ASCO’s representative to the AMA’s Relative Value Scale (RVS) Update Committee (RUC); Samuel M. Silver, MD, PhD, FACP (American Society of Hematology); Christian A. Thomas, MD (ASCO’s representative to the AMA’s Current Procedural Terminology/CPT process) and J. Chris Nunnink, MD.
ASCO Committee members each serve a term of three years and Committee Chairs serve one-year consecutive terms as chair elect, chair, and immediate past chair. Other ASCO Committee profiles to follow soon.