CHICAGOHealth care professionals who provide care to cancer patients need to help managers of employee benefits programs determine the cost and quality of the oncology services they purchase, said Dale Orred, corporate benefits manager for United Parcel Service, Atlanta.
Purchasers do not have enough medical knowledge to ask the necessary and appropriate questions or demand the supporting documents to establish outcome parameters for their networks of providers, Mr. Orred said at a conference on purchasing oncology services sponsored by the American Cancer Society in conjunction with the Kerr L. White Institute for Health Services Research, Decatur, Georgia.
Purchasers have difficulty obtaining useful information because of the overall lack of data on the pricing and quality of cancer care, the lack of a uniform method of reporting data by provider networks and individual practitioners, and the often inconsistent reporting practices of providers.
When data are available, purchasers are hampered because they do not have sophisticated internal information management systems for capturing and analyzing data on cancer care. Nor do they have effective communication channels to disseminate data to targeted groups of employees, Mr. Orred said.
Providers can help purchasers determine the value of oncology services by defining initially and over time the role of oncology specialists. We need to know your approach to preventive protocols, success rates of various treatment modalities, and remission data and interpretative data regarding various support parameters, he added.
Providers also can help educate executives in health plans and insurance carriers. I believe an additional enhancement of any network-based plan would be the participants confidence in the level of care provided in the specialty area, he said. That confidence gets strength from information that is generated by providers and shared with each plan. This information will help participants in terms of making a choice between networks or among specialty providers.
Although Mr. Orred believes that health care providers currently are doing an adequate job of providing purchasers with general information on the nature and scope of oncology services, he feels more could be done to disseminate data on clinical breakthroughs or improvements in patient care in easily understood terms.
It also would help the health care providers to better understand the differ-ences among various purchasers, he said. Each of us has a different culture and different set of organizational values and needs. Your informational response will help us become stronger partners in the ongoing purchasing process.