How Patient-Centered Care is Driving Innovation

An estimated 1.6 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Now more than ever it is important to provide better quality oncology care using innovative, cost-cutting techniques. In recent years, healthcare has taken a turn towards patient-centricity in order to ensure exceptional service at a lower cost to patients. Many oncology service providers are now transitioning to value-based care models which focus on patient-driven results. Optimizing oncology service for a patient-centric system encourages physicians to provide better, more comprehensive care at a lower cost for patients. Taking a deeper look at value-based oncology, we spoke with Dr. Linda Weller-Ferris, Vice President of the Lahey Health Cancer Institute, and key speaker for this year’s Q1 Oncology Service Line Management and Optimization Conference.

Dr. Weller-Ferris explained that this new transition is a milestone in the medical community; applauding the progress, she explained, “I think it’s much more focused on the patient experience. Placing the patient at the center of care and educating them and their care-givers helps emphasize shared decisions about care needs and helps physicians be more diligent in providing comprehensive service.” Encouraging physicians and patients to coordinate in specific, patient-driven care creates an environment more likely to produce patient-educated and well-planned care. This may also result in reduced post-acute care. An important factor of value-based care, for Dr. Weller-Ferris, is planning and preparing.

By assessing each patient’s unique risk factors, the institute is able to accurately determine which patients pose a higher risk for unplanned emergency room visits or unplanned admissions. Adequate preparation and care can greatly reduce or eliminate these unexpected costs. Dr. Weller-Ferris explains, “By preventing unplanned emergency visits and proactively managing patient care, we’re being pushed into a well-structured and organized service. This preparation is reducing our costs.”

Optimizing oncology care for leading executives like Dr. Weller-Ferris means using technology to get the most productivity from her staff as possible. To do this, the Lahey Health Cancer Institute turned to Mayo Clinic-adapted risk assessment model, the Elder Risk Assessment. By using this model, Dr. Weller-Ferris is able to have the entirety of a patient’s data, spanning the care arch.  This is helpful for doctors and nurses at the institute to stay consistent so that the most optimal and timely care decisions are made. In this instance, if a patient calls the institute to report symptoms, doctors can quickly view the patient’s care history and confidently determine the next step.

This innovation is vital to long-term patient care and can greatly reduce the manpower needed to collect, analyze, and store this information. Technology is playing a bigger role in healthcare than ever before and Dr. Weller-Ferris is taking full advantage of this. She explained that a new risk stratification and video calls will be utilized at the institute to better serve patients. In a virtual meeting with their physician, patients can discuss their most pressing needs in the comfort of their own home or office, letting the patient lead their own life. This decreases the amount of time and money a patient may spend at a visit to the institute.

However, optimizing an oncology service line requires more than innovative procedures. When streamlining service, Dr. Weller-Ferris looks to her staff the most. She explains, “Sixty percent of service costs are staffing, so we need to look at the productivity of our staff, the percentages of cancellations and no shows, and managing soft-costs like social workers or psychological resources for patients.” In addition to staff productivity, Dr. Weller-Ferris is looking at her payer relationships, and the percentages of denials for care. These relationships may greatly impact the institute’s revenue, and so play a critical role in cost expenditure.

One avenue Weller-Ferris will not consider is cutting any costs that will negatively impact a patient’s care. She explains, “The patient, in this focused system, is receiving a comprehensive care system. We want patients to have the support they need at every angle; physical, psychological, and socially. We also want patients to be educated throughout the process about their own care, giving them the control.”

Oncology care is changing. New payment models are helping industry leaders’ focus on service innovation and reduced-cost, high-quality care. And this focus has become a positive model for patients, payers, and providers. To hear more from Dr. Weller-Ferris, register for the 2017 Oncology Service Line Management & Optimization Conference. This event will be held multiple times throughout 2017 in Chicago, April 10-11 and Philadelphia, May 18-19.