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First Ray of Sun Shines on Cancer Measure Reporting

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 2, 2014

The healthcare industry has hundreds of measures stratifying quality of care for heart failure, pneumonia, and stroke, but nothing for cancer—until now. The PA Health Care Quality Alliance recently added five scores to its website.

Thirteen million people in the U.S. live with a cancer diagnosis, equivalent to the state of Illinois. A population the size of Milwaukee will die from cancer this year.

Yet there's no national public reporting of cancer care quality, though tests and treatments are known to vary enormously—from one hospital pathologist or oncologist or surgeon to another down the road.

The healthcare industry has hundreds of measures stratifying quality of care for heart failure, pneumonia, heart attack, and stroke. We can see who is a poor or great performer in 30-day readmission rates and mortality, hospital-acquired infections and conditions, emergency room wait times, surgical safety, stroke care, blood clot prevention, labor and delivery care, and many more.

But for cancer, nada. That is, nothing until just a few weeks ago.

That's when the Pennsylvania Health Care Quality Alliance (PHCQA) officially took the issue head on, augmenting quality reports it publishes for other diseases on its website with five scores for oncology care. The new "cancer center" tab shows rates of adherence to three breast cancer and two colon cancer process measures known to improve patient survival.

To date, 52 of the state's 72 hospital cancer programs agreed to have their data reported publicly on all five measures, even though for some the scores are nothing to boast about. And reporting on additional measures is coming soon.

Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society and former assistant director of the National Cancer Institute, applauds the Pennsylvania initiative, saying, "I know of no other state or any other hospitals that publicly discloses this data."

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