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#ACCCNOC: What Does the Future of Cancer Care Look Like?

October 13, 2022

ACCC is in West Palm Beach, Fla., where it hosted two pre-conferences on Wednesday, October 12, before opening the ACCC 39th National Oncology Conference (#ACCCNOC). Members of the multidisciplinary cancer care team and industry convened to attend dynamic sessions discussing the future of oncology care, from defining what oncology practice will look like in 2040 to the evolution of oncology financial advocacy. These networking and discussion-based opportunities offered 162 #ACCCNOC attendees a refreshing (and “back to normal”) day dedicated to networking and learning.

Cancer Care in 2040

The day began with the Institute for the Future of Oncology—an event dedicated to ACCC President Dr. David Penberthy’s 2022-2023 theme: “Leveraging Technology to Transform Cancer Care Delivery and the Patient Experience.” The question posed to attendees: what does the future of cancer care delivery look like?

In presenting industry’s perspective, Scott Penberthy, director of applied AI (artificial intelligence) at Google shared one question Google Health is trying to answer: “How we can take all available healthcare data, feed it into a machine, and turn it into a tool for providers to use?” On partnering with providers, Penberthy said that Google has the science and technology expertise to understand and analyze patterns in big data, but it must partner closely with physicians and hospitals who have the medical expertise and who are the “keepers” of patient data.

Additionally, “patients want to know about the newest technologies and treatments available to them, and social media is one tool we can use to deliver that information,” suggested Sanjay Juneja, MD, chief of Oncology Service at Baton Rouge General Hospital and co-founder and chief operating officer at MedFluencers. While active on his own social media accounts, Dr. Juneja shared how apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, among others, are digital platforms that can be helpful for cancer-related education efforts like busting commonly believed myths about this disease.

Moving into the business and operational perspective of cancer care in 2040, Jennie Kung, senior director at Mayo Clinic Innovation Exchange, detailed how Mayo is replicating, as close as possible, the capabilities of a brick-and-mortar hospital in its Advanced Care at Home Program.  “We saw this program as an opportunity to rethink the patient experience and reduce or even eliminate hospitalizations,” said Kung. “When operationalizing the program, we took a step back and listened to the voice of the patient.” Mayo Clinic believed that its program would not only address patient concerns and dissatisfiers but also reduce costs. This last goal was particularly important, considering the average cost of a three-day hospital stay is about $30 thousand the fact that 66 percent of all bankruptcies in the United States are tied to medical care, said Kung. To date, more than 1,000 patients have been admitted into the Advanced Care at Home Program and more than 3,000 bed days were saved. 

The Institute then moved on to the most important voice at the table, when Adam Hayden—writer, speaker, and patient advocate—shared how genomic sequencing improved his quality of life after being diagnosed with brain cancer in 2016. Completing a patient’s “genomic sequencing and then giving them that information is so important,” he said, adding that it can help patients plan their lives. While patients may not be able to read lab results or interpret scans, Adam shared: “We do know how we feel and how we want to feel.”

He then discussed the need for multi-stakeholder engagement. “Being a patient is a job. We have responsibilities like completing insurance paperwork and applying for disability benefits. We [patients] are working together with providers in a therapeutic partnership.”

Closing out the Institute for the Future of Oncology, attendees learned about several successful grant opportunities that required a partnership between clinicians, researchers, industry, and the federal government, including the National Institutes of Health’s AIM-AHEAD Initiative. This initiative is dedicated to improving patient outcomes and their healthcare experience in the Appalachia region through technology and data, with findings being shared with the broader oncology community. “We’re here to talk about how a business plan with a contribution margin can save lives and ensure we are delivering value-based care,” concluded Doug Flora, MD, LSSBB, executive medical director of Oncology Services at St. Elizabeth Cancer Center.

Financial Advocacy

In opening the much-anticipated ACCC Financial Advocacy Network Pre-Conference, the network’s Chair Angie Santiago, CRCS, manager of Oncology Financial Advocacy at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at the Thomas Jefferson University Health System, shared her personal take on the evolving field. She, like many financial advocates, was introduced to oncology after beginning her career in healthcare and developed her organization’s financial navigation program from scratch. There were no guidelines, workflows, or other information at the time to support her in how to best assist patients with financial navigation services like insurance optimization, accessing financial assistance, etc. Now, in 2022, she was excited to share more on the network’s Delphi process to update the 2018 Financial Advocacy Services Guidelines. (These guidelines will be available to the public in later in 2022.)

In updating the guidelines, the network approached the process in an inclusive and informed manner, while keeping the patient at the center. “Our role is meant to move with the patient’s journey,” Santiago said, rather than a cancer program or practice’s return on investment. This idea was one of many principles guiding the update. A first draft of these guidelines was shared with attendees, who then discussed how ACCC can best support them and others in recognizing and implementing the financial navigation services deemed essential to comprehensive cancer care, as mentioned in the guidelines. Such support includes how to best communicate these guidelines to patients and caregivers and ensure buy-in from administration and the C-suite.

Though these guidelines are not the final say so in oncology financial advocacy, ACCC and the network are hoping that they will provide the support that has been missing in the field for years. 

In closing out the day’s event, the network hosted its first in-person coffee chat, where attendees discussed the daily challenges with helping patients with access treatment and pay for healthcare-related costs. These conversations brought financial advocates, administrators, C-suite staff, and industry together to learn from one another in real time and offer successes seen by others across the country—a welcoming opportunity to improve comprehensive cancer care everywhere. And between each session, attendees were excited to network once again. 

#ACCCNOC is back in-person, offering all members of the multidisciplinary cancer care team, industry, and more the space to convene, learn, and take home lessons and tools to apply in practice—ultimately improving person-centered, high-quality cancer care.

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