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Cancer Centers CEO Shares Major Challenges of 2020

By Christopher Cheney  
   February 10, 2020

Cancer Treatment Centers of America CEO Pat Basu discusses three oncology care challenges and three challenges facing the healthcare sector.

The CEO of Boca Raton, Florida-based Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) recently talked with HealthLeaders about major challenges facing oncology care and the healthcare sector in 2020.

Pat Basu, MD, MBA, worked in several healthcare roles before taking on the top leadership position at CTCA last year.

The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine graduate has worked as a physician at Stanford University Medical Center, as senior vice president at Optum, as a White House healthcare fellow, and as president, chief operating officer, and chief medical officer at vRad, a provider of radiology services. Basu is also one of the founders of telehealth pioneer Doctor On Demand.

He told HealthLeaders there are three primary challenges facing oncology care this year as well as three major challenges facing the healthcare sector this year and into the new decade. The following is a lightly edited transcript of Basu's comments.

Oncology care challenges

1. Access and affordability: This is simultaneously an environment where we have made exceptional strides in turning cancer into a chronic disease and adding years to life. At the same time, we still struggle with access and affordability.

On the affordability front, the cost of the therapies including the drugs and immunotherapy has implications for access. With such a prevalent and horrible disease as cancer, ideally you would want treatment to be 100% accessible.

2. Geographic barriers: In our case, we get a lot of patients who come from all over the country and all over the world. We get many patients who come to us after they have tried treatment at their local hospital. It's a major journey for these patients to travel.

By offering telehealth and partnering with local providers, we are trying to bridge this gap. But just because you have wonderful new therapies and protocols at facilities like ours, it doesn't mean that everyone can overcome the geographical barriers to access them.

3. Time: There might be a clinical trial that is in its infancy but it's so close to unlocking an important scientific discovery that I would wish that I could get it to patients today instead of a year from now.

Time is also a factor in catching disease early and preventing disease. Just like with cardiac care and diabetes, there are lots of things that can prevent cancer—upto 50% of cancer is preventable. Through prevention and very early detection and diagnosis, we can stop cancers at the cellular level before they progress to more complex diseases.

Healthcare sector challenges

1. Building a better American healthcare system: We need a healthcare system that is dramatically improved in quality, dramatically improved in access, and dramatically improved in affordability and sustainability for patients, doctors, employers, and the country as a whole. Quality, access, and cost are major challenges that are going to require transformative change.

For example, in the quality bucket, studies have shown that about 25% of hospital admissions have some sort of safety error or harm caused to the patient during their episode of care. That's totally unacceptable and can no longer be tolerated.

With access, one in four Americans will defer care because of cost reasons. One in three Americans will not take prescription drugs because of cost. One of the major causes of personal bankruptcy is healthcare. We have a highly inefficient system. Out of the $3.5 trillion that we spend on healthcare in this country, which is close to 19% of our gross domestic product, about $700 billion to $900 billion is wasteful care. 

2. Siloed healthcare: It is so frustrating to me as a doctor and as someone who leads a large national care organization that we have siloes in healthcare. There are siloes down to the patient level, where there is limited compatibility of electronic medical records and limited portability of patient examinations.

We are also still struggling to establish robust partnerships. One of the things we are trying to do at CTCA is to determine how we partner with other providers and how we partner with payers, employers, pharmaceutical companies, and other members of the healthcare ecosystem. We want to lock hands together with partners to solve big problems. All of us take pride in how good we are and what we do, but we can do so much more if we partner with others.

3. Prevention and diagnosis: Often, the treatment side gets the most attention—more dollars and more resources. Treatment is very important, but we need to pay as much attention to devoting dollars and resources to prevention and diagnosis.

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


Affordability and access are major barriers to care in the oncology field and the entire healthcare sector, Cancer Treatment Centers of America CEO Pat Basu says.

In oncology care, there are daunting geographic barriers to care.

After focusing for decades on treatment of patients, the healthcare sector needs to increase resources for prevention and diagnosis.

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