The state of cancer care is in crisis and getting worse. There is an ever growing demand for cancer care, a shrinking workforce, rising healthcare costs and an increasing complexity of treatment of cancer. According to the Institute of Medicine (IMO) cancer care in America is in a deep crisis!
In analysing the current state of affairs a committee of experts in U.S. cancer care has concluded that cancer care in the United States is not patient-centered. They have concluded that many patients do not receive palliative care and decisions about care are not always based on the latest scientific evidence!
In coming to this conclusion the committee pointed to the rapid rise of cancer cares costs, which are expected to reach $173 billion by 2020, up from $125 billion in 2010 and $72 billion in 2004. And while the number of people developing cancer is likely to increase 45 percent by 2030, the number of health professionals trained in providing cancer care is on the decline. Clearly, these statistics show that we are barreling down a dark pit.
Now, when you couple the government sequester cuts we can only be very concerned about the future for cancer research, treatment and aftercare.
According to IOM Committee Chair Patricia Ganz, M.D., of the University of California Los Angeles “As a nation we need to chart a new course for cancer care. Changes are needed across the board, from how we communicate with patients, to how we translate research into practice, to how we coordinate care and measure its quality.”
The committee has called for a higher quality cancer care delivery system which would include for engaged patients, a coordinated workforce and enhanced evidence-based care and health IT, among other recommendations.
The committee recommends that all patients and their families receive understandable information on their cancer prognosis, treatment benefits and harms, palliative care, psychosocial support, and costs of care–which cancer care teams can provide via decision aids. Additionally, they call for professional educational programs that offer cancer care team members’ formal, comprehensive communication training to help them disseminate critical information.
We live in the richest country in the world and yet we fail to provide adequate healthcare to cancer survivors!
Joel T Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.