Physician-Owned, Community-Based Oncology Practices: The US Oncology Network Model

Healthcare consolidation has come under scrutiny by the media, government, and medical associations. However, according to Michael Seiden, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer, the US Oncology Network and McKesson Specialty Health, The Woodlands, TX, not all consolidations are bad.

The US Oncology Network, which is supported by McKesson Specialty Health, comprises independent, physician-owned, com­munity-based oncology practices throughout the country. This collaborative model allows independent oncology practices to learn from their peers and access resources, including technology to support value-based care, that are enhanced and optimized by a large organization.

Oncology has changed dramatically in the past several years. “New science is entering the field at an explosive rate, and reimbursement by payers is moving toward value-based care, also at a rapid rate, the likes of which has not been seen before,” Dr Seiden said.

To keep up with the increased administrative complexity of cancer care, documenting quality, and making smarter strategic choices, greater resources are needed, and many practices have found that collaborating with a larger system can provide these resources.

“Through the network, doctors have access to coordinated resources, best business practices, and the experience, infrastructure, and support of McKesson Specialty Health,” Dr Seiden said. “Specifically, practices have access to technology, clinical decision support tools, managed care support, and revenue cycle expertise,” he added.

This collaboration lets physicians in the US Oncology Network focus on the health of their patients, while McKesson focuses on the health of their practices, he said.

The Benefits of a Collaborative Model

Many practices have taken advantage of this collaborative healthcare model, choosing to grow locally and offer more integrated cancer care and critical services, such as clinical research, survivorship, cancer genetics, and advanced care planning to patients.

“Healthcare remains inherently local, and each market is different. We attempt to provide the practices in the network the benefits of the network’s scale, while simultaneously tailoring solutions as needed to the local market’s needs,” Dr Seiden said.

One lesson the US Oncology Network has learned about managing a large network of oncology practices is the importance and challenges of implementing comprehensive solutions all at once.

“To truly achieve the practice transformation required in today’s landscape, we look at quality, process, workflow, people, culture, and technology. Merely solving for one of these components is insufficient support for a practice that is interested in thriving in today’s healthcare environment,” Dr Seiden said.

With the continuing challenges facing community oncology practices, such as mitigating the risks associated with the expenses of cancer drugs, navigating misaligned reimbursement formularies by some payers, and embracing new science and new therapeutic options for personalized medicine, achieving a sustainable community patient care delivery system is increasingly difficult. Being part of a collaborative model such as the US Oncology Network helps independent practices manage these challenges, according to Dr Seiden.

“The network can help practices manage these challenges through coordinated clinical work groups, dissemination of best practices, and a constant exploration of how innovation may make the practice and its caregivers more efficient, delighted, or both,” he said.

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