The heavy toll cancer takes on a person’s physical and emotional health and the strain it puts on their loved ones is well known. Many of us have witnessed it firsthand. But did you know the financial burden of the disease can also affect patient outcomes? Researchers at Fred Hutch, a Washington-based cancer research center, found the tremendous weight of cancer care costs can be just as deadly as the disease itself.
The study found that people diagnosed with cancer are 2.5 times more likely to declare bankruptcy and those who did declare bankruptcy were approximately 80% more likely to die than those who did not. Other studies have found the sheer thought of treatment costs is enough to delay care. Timely quality care is of tremendous importance when it comes to cancer. Your first try can be the most important, since getting the right treatment, right away, has a significant impact on survival rates. And as Fred Hutch’s research shows, staying financially solvent impacts survival as well. But few know where to turn when that dreaded cancer diagnosis comes.
So, Fred Hutch set out to do something about it. Through a joint effort of payers, hospitals, patients and experts, the research institute published The Community Cancer Care in Washington State: Quality and Cost Report 2018. The report measures quality and associated costs, down to the clinic level, in four areas spanning a range of cancer care. The goal of the report is to facilitate discussion, promote the sharing of best practices and encourage collaboration in the field of oncology to achieve the triple aim of health care: better health, better care and lower costs. By mapping each cancer clinic’s quality and cost data the report not only tells a story of the value delivered by providers, but also shines a light on efficiency opportunities. It will become a valuable tool for patients, providers and payers in the future.
The work is an example of what is possible when individuals and organizations across the spectrum come together with the common cause of improving healthcare. Today, as part of the Mercer Quality Improvement Collaborative, employers are having conversations with health systems across the country to achieve the same goal. We welcome the opportunity to have more employers join us to learn about their local markets and help drive needed change.