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May 30, 2023

Closing the gap between cancer research and practice

In For Oncologists

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Clinical practice guidelines can help physicians determine the appropriate care for patients, but they don’t always include the latest advances—especially in the rapidly changing field of oncology. Increasing demands in managing insurance coverage, seeing more patients daily, and caring for hundreds of cancer subtypes only compound the difficulties of staying up to date on the newest developments, some that haven’t even yet made it into the guidelines.

Common challenges with clinical practice guideline adherence

The time lapse between the discovery of new cancer treatment data and the publication of the updated guidelines has long been acknowledged as an area of opportunity. Challenges that may further stretch oncologist’s time ever thin in the years to come include:

A shortage of oncologists

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) estimated that the need for oncologic services would increase by 48% by 2020. Yet the number of oncologists was projected to only increase by 14%, resulting in a projected shortage of up to 4,000 oncology providers. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated physician burnout, causing many doctors to leave the profession altogether.

Increased number of cancer diagnoses

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that the total number of new cancer cases will increase by nearly 50% due to the aging of the U.S. population by 2050. However, a substantial, robust, and coordinated focus on primary cancer prevention could mitigate this impact.

So what can the industry do to address the challenges?

Accelerating access to clinical discoveries, new guidelines, and oncologic support

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a seismic shift in how physicians practice medicine, highlighting the feasibility of delivering care remotely. What if community oncologists could easily access groundbreaking insights, leading discoveries, and ongoing expertise and support in cancer care, regardless of their location?

Physicians today can benefit from programs that promote:

Peer-to-peer communication

Cancer organizations should strive to support a collaborative community, since unique perspectives from peer colleagues can alleviate moral distress. Additionally, peer support can enhance the oncologists’ professional development through continual clinical interactions.

A direct line to emerging guidelines

AccessHope offers access for community oncologists to subspecialty experts from four of only 53 NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers. Given that these centers are at the forefront of the latest evidence-based research and lifesaving discoveries, our subspecialists know of the newest personalized treatments, such as clinical trials or breakthrough medications, and genetic/genomic testing and targeted therapies.

Expert case reviews

Through AccessHope, patients eligible for our employee benefit of cancer support services through their employers can get a patient-initiated or automatically triggered expert case review. We connect with our members’ community oncologists to provide recommendations they may use to optimize treatment plans while engaging them in collegial collaborations throughout the episode of care.

In turn, physicians easily access an ally and advocate deeply knowledgeable in the latest guidelines, which can positively impact patient outcomes and quality of care, while helping extend cancer innovation nationwide.