Cancer cell
Cancer cell

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the world?s leading professional organization representing physicians who care for people with cancer, has commissioned a new study, funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure?, the world?s largest breast cancer organization and the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer, to find out how non-physician practitioners, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, can provide vital services to cancer patients as part of continued efforts to address projected future oncology workforce shortages.

The study, to be conducted for ASCO by Oncology Metrics, will be a comprehensive analysis of how oncology practices provide patient care, through collaborative care teams made up of oncologists, nurse practitioners, and physician?s assistants. The study of up to 40 private and hospital-based oncology practices will specifically examine the satisfaction, efficiency and productivity of each collaborative care team in order to establish ?best practices.?

?ASCO and the Workforce Advisory Group continue to explore a variety of solutions to the anticipated oncology workforce shortage,? said ASCO President Douglas W. Blayney, MD. ?We believe collaborative practice models will help cancer care professionals cope with the realities of having too many patients and not enough doctors.?

The number of Americans aged 65 and older will double by 2030 as baby boomers age. At the same time, people are living longer with cancer, requiring ongoing care. Cancer specialists will struggle to handle the patient load: a 2007 ASCO workforce study said demands for visits will leap by 48 percent by 2020, but the number of oncologists will fall 4,000 short.”This is a real problem that must be addressed and soon,? said Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of Komen for the Cure. “That?s why Komen is investing $10 million into this effort and others, to find solutions to these big issues in cancer care, including critical access issues and research to deliver treatments more effectively.

ASCO?s Workforce Advisory Group identified the increased use of non-physician practitioners in an oncology practice as a possible way to narrow the gap between supply and demand for oncology services. According to ASCO?s 2007 Workforce Study, 56 percent of oncologists work with nurse practitioners or physician?s assistants, and providers who use nurse practitioners/ physician?s assistants have higher visit rates than those who do not.

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The practices being included in the survey will vary in size, patient population, and location. ?This study will enable us to address the unique problems oncology practices are facing across the country and potentially offer some solutions. Obviously, a small rural practice will have different needs than a large practice in an inner city,? said Dean Bajorin, MD, Co-Chair of ASCO?s Workforce Advisory Group.Some of the services that nurse practitioners and physician?s assistants provide in a practice setting include ordering and administering routine chemotherapy, as well as patient education and counseling.

?While oncologists will continue to provide hands-on patient care, integrating nurse practitioners and physician?s assistants has significant potential to extend the supply of oncologist services, particularly in the care for the growing number of cancer survivors,? said Michael Goldstein, MD, Co-Chair of ASCO?s Workforce Advisory Group. In fact, ASCO?s 2007 workforce study also found that 68 percent of current oncologist visits are for patients who are more than one year post-diagnosis.

The study results are expected to be released in early 2011. This study is part of a historic collaboration between The ASCO Cancer Foundation, ASCO and Komen for the Cure, in which Komen is providing $10 million in support of projects and programs designed to improve the quality of cancer care in the United States.

Last editorial review: July 1, 2009.

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