Preview of the Association of Community Cancer Centers Annual Meeting

In this interview we preview the 2014 annual meeting of the Association of Community Cancer Centers with Matthew Farber, director of provider economics and public policy for the association.

The Association of Community Cancer Centers 40th Annual National Meeting will take place March 31 to April 2 in Arlington, Virginia. As part of our coverage of this meeting, today we are speaking with Matthew Farber, director of provider economics and public policy for the association.

-Interviewed by Leah Lawrence

Cancer Network: Matthew, this year’s theme is Strength in Numbers. Can you discuss a little about what that means in relation to the ACCC Annual Meeting?

Matthew Farber: It relates to a lot of what we are trying to do with membership and being a multidisciplinary membership.

A lot of what we try and do is focused around the entire cancer care team, the multidisciplinary aspect of cancer care. Treating the whole patient with all the members of the team, be it the physicians, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, administrators, financial counselors, genetic counselors, etc., is really the best and most complete way to help patients through their cancer care treatment. That is what we try to foster with the association and meetings like this.

Also, we are excited and happy that we will be celebrating our 40th anniversary at this meeting, so that was another reason for the tie-in with the theme.

Cancer Network: Healthcare in the United States is going through a large state of change. Can you discuss how these changes will be covered and discussed at this year’s annual meeting?

Matthew Farber: Absolutely. You are exactly right. There is quite a bit of change going on broadly in healthcare, but also specifically in oncology care. Of course we are very aware of the Affordable Care Act and all the changes that are happening with that. How it is impacting cancer care is a very important subject. We will be having a number of sessions directly addressing that.

In fact, our keynote speaker is Dr. Kavita Patel, whose background is with both the White House and Congress. She was very instrumental in drafting language of this and previous efforts in Medicare changes. She will be a great person to give an overview of what these changes are and how they are impacting oncology.

We are also going to be talking specifically about the exchanges and how they are impacting oncology and what the hurdles have been up to this point. I think that will help a lot of our members out, to hear how the Affordable Care Act is impacting community oncology.

How care is paid for is changing drastically as well. We are very used to the fee-for-service model, but more and more alternative payment methodologies are starting to become the norm, whether they are Accountable Care Organizations, or medical home models, pathways-driven care, or episodic care, our members need to understand what those new payment models look like and what the implications are for their patients, for their staff, etc. There will be a number of sessions that will review some of those new payment methodologies.

Also, we are trying to get at the very important question of, how do you provide value in cancer care? We will have a very exciting panel session that will specifically address value-based cancer care.

Cancer Network: Is there anything new on the agenda for this year’s annual meeting?

Matthew Farber: One of the great things about our annual meeting is that it is very focused on business, economics, and policy. Everything we do at this meeting is very current. It is all focused on current issues that are happening from a business perspective, from a policy perspective, so I think it is a really great meeting to get the latest and greatest information in community oncology.

As an example, there has been such a focus lately on palliative care and working palliative care programs into cancer programs, so we have a session on how you measure quality in providing palliative care. That is very much a moving target.

We are also looking at what reimbursement issues are tied with providing clinical trials in a cancer program.

We are also trying to encourage folks to be involved. We have a Capitol Hill day, where we will be taking a number of our participants up to Capitol Hill to meet with their elected officials, but we will also be recognizing some of our members who have been active at the state level who worked on issues to help get bills passed in the state house. That can certainly be a very important issue as well.

We will also be rolling out and providing information on recent surveys and trend data that will allow our members to benchmark their programs against other programs of their colleagues and competitors to see how they are doing and maybe what changes they need to make to make sure that they are providing the best care that they can in their community setting.

Cancer Network: Overall, why would you encourage people to attend this meeting?

Matthew Farber: There are lots of changes happening in community oncology right now, from new payment methodologies to changes related to Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and, just in general, the landscape is shifting quite a bit, with more consolidations, mergers, and systems that are growing. This type of meeting can really help the community to navigate those changes. A number of the sessions that we are having will identify what the changes are, what the impacts will be in the community-based setting, and how to avoid those hurdles and move around them and, ultimately, help your program to not just survive, but really to thrive in the community setting.

So, if you are a practice that wants to know how you can increase billing in facing continued declining reimbursement levels or if you are a hospital program wondering how you can meet the new Commission on Cancer standards for accreditation, there will certainly be help for you at this meeting. Or, if you are about to hire a new financial counselor because you realize that the financial discussion is an integral part of care, we can help with that as well because there will be programs for financial counseling for cancer programs.

I think that regardless of the person’s role in the cancer program, be it a physician, director, administrator, nurse, social worker, or pharmacist, etc., there are programs and sessions that will help you do your job better, ultimately to provide better quality cancer care to your patients.

Cancer Network: Thank you again for taking a few minutes to speak with us today.

Matthew Farber: My pleasure.