ASCO and the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care Medicine (AAHPM) today announced a joint initiative to support delivery of high-quality palliative care in medical oncology. The initiative is funded by ASCO’s first-ever grant from the Agency for Health Care Research Quality. The project aims to address the complex care needs of patients with advanced cancer, including relief or prevention of symptoms – one goal of palliative care in oncology practice.
The three-year project will create a virtual learning collaborative (VLC), a web-based technology platform, to efficiently and broadly disseminate evidence-based palliative care approaches in oncology. The VLC will include coordinated, customized learning modules, social networking capabilities, and a toolbox of evidence-based resources to help translate the latest research into practice.
“We recognize that palliative care is an essential component of care for patients with cancer. This partnership will help get the latest palliative care evidence directly into the hands of oncologists so that palliative care can be provided as early as possible,” said ASCO President Sandra M. Swain, MD, FACP. “Never before has technology been leveraged to quickly spread practice-changing research and to connect oncologists allowing them to share best practices in palliative care. This is truly innovative.”
Twenty oncology practices from around the country will be recruited to participate in a structured practice improvement pilot project, enabled by the VLC. Pilot practices will report data on palliative care quality using ASCO’s Quality Oncology Practice Initiative® (QOPI).
“The oncologist or treating specialist could manage many palliative care problems, initiating a specialist palliative care consultation for more complex situations. The VLC moves this goal from concept to practical reality,” said AAHPM President-elect Amy P. Abernethy, MD, FACP, principle investigator of the VLC project.
They will share best practices and resources through the VLC, and benefit from expert and peer guidance as they implement local improvements. Qualitative and quantitative evaluation will assess oncology practitioners’ perceptions of the VLC; assess the impact of the VLC on performance related to primary palliative care, and inform additional refinements to the platform and the toolbox of content and resources. Ultimately, project leaders aim to provide a proven palliative care toolbox to all ASCO members for use in their practices, and to leverage the VLC platform to address other targets for practice improvement.
Despite a growing consensus about the benefits of routine palliative care in oncology, results from QOPI demonstrate the need for improved symptom management, greater attention to psychosocial issues, discussions about goals of care, and appropriate referral to hospice - all core skills of palliative care.
Information on how oncology practices can participate in pilot project will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.