Quality vs. Cost: Biggest Takeaways from the NEHI ‘Advancing Value in Oncology’ Panel Discussion

On May 27, the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation hosted a panel discussion entitled “Advancing Value in Oncology: Opportunities and Challenges for Innovation,” which examined the impact of new medical payment models on patient access to innovation in oncological treatment, and what policies are necessary to facilitate innovation. The Network for Excellence in Health Innovation (NEHI) is a nonprofit health policy institute formed in 2002 to support innovations that improve the quality of health care while reducing its cost. NEHI’s diverse membership of stakeholder groups is comprised of over 100 organizations, including health plans, providers, universities, patient groups, hospitals, business organizations, medical device companies, and the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

The seminar was moderated by NEHI vice president of policy research Tom Hubbard, featured panelists representing broad array of industries and interests related to the health care field. Here are the greatest takeaways from each panelist:

  • Jeff Allen, executive director of Friends of Cancer Research, opened the discussion of payment models by emphasizing the importance of safety and efficacy of health products as central factors in determining the overall cost of treatment. He argued that innovation in health care products is driven largely by consumer demand, which has lead in part to the costly over-prescription of unnecessary, less effective, or relatively unsafe drugs.
  • Dave “e-Patient Dave” deBronkart, NEHI Patient Engagement Fellow and co-founder of SmartPatients.com, focused on the potential benefits of facilitating greater patient-to-patient communication regarding treatment options, side effects, and how best to prepare in advance of receiving treatment. Better preparation for treatment can help to reduce the number of hospitalizations experienced by those undergoing oncological treatment (due to side effects and toxicity, for example).
  • Karen Fields, Medical Director for the Moffit Oncology Network and Moffit Cancer Center, explained how greater uniformity in the marrying and sharing of medical data would reduce cost by increasing the distribution of best practices across health insurance companies and care providers.
  • Jennifer Malin, Medical Director for Oncological Solutions at Anthem, pointed out that a third of the cost of cancer treatment comes from chemotherapy and supportive care (due to the high rate of hospitalization among cancer patients undergoing active treatment), and argued that this could be reduced by creating more uniform courses of treatment.
  • Joe O’Hara, Director of Accountable Care Solutions at Horizon Healthcare Innovations, proposed grouping patients by genomic information so that treatment regimens are more targeted toward important individual characteristics that have an immense impact on the efficacy of particular treatments from patient to patient.
  • Martin Zagari, Vice President of Global Health Economics at Amgen, argued that there must be a shift in the measurement of treatment quality away from the predominant “median survival” measure and toward a more targeted system. Since different people experience very different rates of durable response to drugs, median survival provides very little useful information in selecting the proper course of treatment on an individual basis.
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