No. 1 for cancer care: What's missing from rankings for this specialty?

There's no doubt cancer care rankings hold weight for health systems. Patients who are seeking top-of-the-line care use rankings and ratings as a guidepost in choosing the right provider for them. But it's also clear rankings aren't the be-all and end-all to cancer care.

A panel of executives discussed this topic during a session at the Becker's Healthcare Oncology Virtual Forum Aug. 25. The panel included Jeff Wright, vice president of cancer services at The University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City; Ifeyinwa Osunkwo, MD, director of the sickle cell disease enterprise and professor of medicine at the Levine Cancer Institute of Atrium Health in Charlotte, N.C.; and Jasmine Ballard, administrative director of Levine Cancer Institute. Morgan Haefner, editor at Becker's Healthcare, moderated the panel.

Here is an excerpt from the conversation, lightly edited for clarity. To view the full session on demand, click here

Question: What's missing from cancer rankings and ratings?

Jasmine Ballard: While the rankings validate that you have an excellent program, it doesn't mean that if you're not in a certain ranking, you're not a good program. The other disadvantage is the data. Every year organizations review their ranking methodology, but the outpatient component is very difficult to capture, particularly with one of the larger surveys. If it's hospital-based or DRG-based, you've missed 80 percent of the work that happens in wraparound care for patients. 

Jeff Wright: Access is lacking in the rankings and ratings. You can have great patient satisfaction. You can be considered the best cancer center in the country. But if a patient can't get in, it doesn't really matter. I don't believe I've seen a ranking today that considers access. Plus sometimes you'll see a ranking come out and you make a decision on that ranking. But the reality is, the organization you chose may not be your best option for your specific needs. 

Dr. Ifeyinwa Osunkwo: One ranking that rating systems lack is the one where a patient says, "I love my doctor and I love my cancer center." Both Jeff and Jasmine are right, they're all important, but the most important one is how the patient feels about their experience. Are they satisfied with that provider-patient interaction and the support methods around them? Are we truly measuring the patient experience? At the end of the day it's about what the patient says. They love their doctor team, they love their provider team, and they feel satisfied and happy with the care that they've received.

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