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The Lancet Oncology

Monday, June 22, 2009

New National Physician Practice Certification Program to Enhance the Quality of Cancer Care in the U.S.

Providing high quality of care to cancer patients is paramount. To help oncologists create a culture of self-examination and improvement, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the world’s leading professional organization representing physicians who care for people with cancer, in early June 2008 announced the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI®) Certification Program, a new program to certify oncology practices that achieve rigorous standards for high-quality cancer care.

“Increasingly, oncology practices are being asked by payors, patients, and others to attest to the quality of care they provide,” said incoming ASCO President Douglas W. Blayney, MD. “ASCO QOPI Certification will demonstrate a practice’s commitment to delivering high-quality cancer care.”

QOPI is a voluntary, oncologist-led, practice-based quality improvement program. The process employed for improving cancer care includes measurement, feedback and improvement tools for hematology-oncology practices. This self-assessment program launched by ASCO in 2006 to help hematology-oncology and medical oncology practices assess the quality of care they provide to patients. Through the QOPI program, practices abstract data from patients’ medical charts twice a year and enter this information into a secure database. Currently, nearly 500 oncology practices are enrolled in the program.

ASCO analyzes this data for adherence to more than 80 evidence-based and consensus quality measures and provides feedback reports to participating practices to help them identify areas for improvement. Individual practices are also able to compare their performance to aggregate data from other practices across the country. Based on these data, doctors can focus on specific areas for quality improvement.

A study by Douglas Blayney, Kristen McNiff, David Hanauer, Gretchen Miela, Denise Markstrom, and Michael Neuss, published earlier this month in the Journal of Clinical Oncology documents the experience of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center with the ASCO QOPI program.

While the study authors determined that the Center was in compliance with the majority of quality measures, the QOPI data showed that use of chemotherapy within two weeks of death was significantly higher than other practices. After this data was presented to the cancer center faculty, use of chemotherapy at the end of life declined from 50 percent to 20 percent.

“It is rewarding to see that through the QOPI program we found areas where we could make striking, rapid improvements in the already high quality of care we were delivering,” said Dr. Blayney. “The QOPI Certification Program puts oncologists at the forefront of defining the highest level of clinical care for people with cancer. We hope that health plans will recognize the QOPI measures, and use QOPI as a best practices model for their own quality initiatives.”

The QOPI Certification Program will be available to all practices that meet specific performance requirements and that pass a new site assessment. Practices that participate in the fall 2009 QOPI data collection process will be the first eligible to receive certification in early 2010.

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Illustration courtesy of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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