Understanding the future cancer patient

Just as pollsters periodically gauge the sentiment of would-be voters, we on the oncology care side want to better understand what Americans think about cancer treatment options.

How prepared are they to shoulder the cost of treatment? What are their thoughts on future innovation and new therapies? This type of insight is important as specialty health services grow - the more we understand the future patient, the better we can serve their needs.

That’s why last month McKesson conducted a survey in partnership with Ipsos in which more than 2,000 Americans were asked questions like:
• Would you ever forgo cancer treatment? If so, why?
• What’s important to you when choosing a cancer provider or treatment?
• Would you trust artificial intelligence technology to diagnose you or recommend a course of cancer treatment?
• How much progress over the past decade has been made towards a cancer cure?
• What are the barriers to receiving quality cancer care?
Here’s what we learned.

Americans aware of the high cost of cancer
Americans are clearly in tune with the financial reality of our healthcare system – costs are not equal and health insurance is not designed to cover all expenses. Three-quarters of those who responded say that a diagnosis would have a catastrophic impact on their finances. Only 13 percent believe insurance would pay for the entire cost of cancer treatment if diagnosed, while 42 percent believe it would pay for only a fraction of their treatment.

But even more concerning is the high percentage of young people (60 percent of GenZers and 50 percent of Millennials) who indicated that if diagnosed, they would decline treatment because of the cost. I’ve always been an advocate of making informed decisions after weighing all options. As healthcare providers, we need to advocate for would-be patients by pushing for greater healthcare literacy, cost and insurance transparency and financial counseling.

Within The US Oncology Network, the country’s largest network of independent, community-based oncology practices, supported by McKesson, many clinics are reinventing their business models to do just that: educate patients and support them along their treatment journey. This means taking care of physiological needs while also addressing the financial burden. We’re seeing a growing number of clinics in the network step up to meet the challenge by adding financial counseling to their list of services.

Women more cost-conscious than men
Interestingly, when it comes to selecting a cancer provider or treatment facility, if diagnosed, results reveal women are more cost-conscious compared to men. A greater percentage of women also prefer to stay close to home for treatment.

Trust in new technologies
There’s reason for optimism too. Most Americans are open to genetic testing to assess their risk for developing cancer (60 percent). Plus, 44 percent of Americans would trust artificial intelligence for cancer diagnosis or a treatment recommendation. It’s exciting to see that as genomic medicine is becoming more accessible and affordable, people are willing to embrace DNA testing to learn their potential genetic predispositions or even consider AI diagnostics in assisting their physician in care decisions.

When it comes to seeking cancer treatment, access to latest technologies and clinical trials (75 percent) is a top factor. This insight serves to reinforce the current trends: We oncologists are deepening our expertise and investment in emerging therapies in biology, chemistry and immunology. And we’re breaking down barriers of access to the latest and most effective treatments and trials for patients through programs like US Oncology Research.

We have our work cut out for us as nearly two-thirds of survey participants feel that a cure for cancer is likely within 50 years. But we’re well on our way as we focus on understanding the needs of the patient, both current and future, and work to deliver better cancer care for all.

You can read the full survey findings here.

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