PHILADELPHIA--The clinical practice guidelines developed by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), to be presented at the coalition's first conference in March, represent the first step toward a larger goal--developing a database of how those guidelines are used throughout the network.
"We'll collect data on how the guidelines are followed, the extent to which treatment deviates from the guidelines, the cost of treatment, and the outcomes of the treatment," Bruce Ross, NCCN executive director, said in an interview with Oncology News International from the network's headquarters in Philadelphia. The NCCN, founded last year, is a coalition of 13 leading cancer centers in the United States.
"Once we have a database," Mr. Ross said, "we can, for the first time, go to insurance companies and managed care organizations, and say, 'This is how we treat patients, this is what it cost, and this is how the patients fared.'"
Mr. Ross, who had a long career at Bristol-Myers Squibb before joining the NCCN as its first full-time professional manager, said that he is looking forward to the upcoming conference.
"It will be the first public display of our guidelines and the first time we will be able to meet face to face with the people with whom we hope to do business," he said. He expects the NCCN members to use the conference to "begin a dialogue with the insurers, to ask and answer questions."
Those targeted to attend the conference include not only people affiliated with the coalition's 13 member institutions, but also interested non-affiliates and representatives from insurance companies, managed care organizations, and the pharmaceutical industry. "Some members of the pharmaceutical industry will speak at the conference to present their side of the story," he said.
He noted that the group's practice guidelines will be copyrighted and made available to NCCN members and their affiliates (hospitals that are part of each cancer center's local network). A unique feature of the guidelines is that they will be updated regularly, perhaps as often as monthly, or any time clinical research provides new insights.