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Investment by health systems key to improving cancer outcomes in U.S., report says

Cancer outcomes vary substantially between populations defined by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and health insurance coverage.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Without a national investment and commitment to transforming healthcare delivery in the U.S., many people won't benefit from the substantial progress in reducing the burden of cancer that's already been made, let alone the innovations and breakthroughs that are yet to come, a new report says.

The article is the fifth in a series comprising a cancer control blueprint to identify opportunities for improving cancer control in the U.S. The latest chapter, authored by Dr. Robin Yabroff and colleagues describes the state of cancer care delivery in the U.S. and identifies goals for a high-performing health system.


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Between 1991 and 2015, the cancer mortality rate declined dramatically in the U.S., reflecting improvements in cancer prevention, screening, treatment and survivorship care.

But cancer outcomes vary substantially between populations defined by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, health insurance coverage and geographic area of residence.

Many potentially preventable cancer deaths occur in people who did not receive effective cancer prevention, screening, treatment or survivorship care. At the same time, cancer care spending is large and growing, straining national, state, and family budgets, not to mention those of health insurance plans.

Health systems have a role to play, the report said, to ensure the greatest number of patients benefit from scientific research that has identified proven tools to reduce the cancer burden.

To that end, the prescribed goals for a high-performing health system include facilitating the adoption of healthy lifestyles; providing access t a regular source of primary care; providing timely access to high-quality, evidence-based care; bring affordable for patients and payers; promoting patient-centeredness, including effective patient-provider communication; and enhancing coordination and communication between providers, including primary care and specialty care providers.


While cancer deaths have been declining since the early 1990s, costs have continued to increase, with more than $147 billion spent for cancer care in the United States in 2017.

Despite these rising costs, employers and health plans have been reticent to manage oncology care, and are also faced with keeping pace with technology and treatment advances.

To help purchasers drive better value and outcomes and reduce waste in cancer care, the nonprofit National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions released an assessment in January looking at how health plans are currently managing cancer for their employees and families -- identifying gaps in treatment and related benefits administration based on an annual survey of health plans.


"No American should develop cancer, suffer needlessly, or die prematurely because they cannot access the care they need," the authors wrote. "[M]uch is already known about how to reduce the burden of cancer, but without a national investment and commitment to transforming our health care systems, many people will not benefit from the progress we have already made, let alone the innovations and breakthroughs that are yet to come."

Twitter: @JELagasse

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