Improving Access & Equity in Cancer Care: Reflections from our recent visit to Capitol Hill

CEO Norm Shore reflects on his visit to Capitol Hill to meet with the House Cancer Caucus

I recently returned from a trip to Capitol Hill where I had the privilege of presenting to the House Cancer Caucus with an esteemed group of colleagues from the American Cancer Society, Novartis, and the Council for Affordable Health Coverage. The goal of this meeting, as well as a series of subsequent one-to-one conversations with additional members of congress scheduled throughout the day, was to advocate for continued innovation on how we identify and address the challenges of social determinants of health (SDoH) in cancer care with suggestions on how we can continue to work collectively to ensure equitable and just care for every cancer patient.

The House Cancer Caucus is a bi-partisan group of representatives, many with medical backgrounds. The caucus is committed to advancing cancer research and funding, increasing access to screenings and life-saving treatments, and improving the lives of people with cancer and cancer survivors.

While it has been encouraging to see the incorporation of SDoH into emerging value-based payment models, I went to the Hill to discuss what more can be done to comprehensively and expeditiously address the non-medical factors that influence approximately 80% of health outcomes.

Social disparities bring an enormous cost to the healthcare system, but even more devastating is the impact on millions of patients and families each year. While it is critical that we ask the healthcare system to address social problems, the reality is they are not prepared nor resourced to do so effectively. That said, the willingness to help is there, if the government is willing to support an environment of more rapid innovation.

Below are three achievable proposals that will have a demonstrable impact on advancing cancer care equity if supported by a government framework that allows innovation to thrive:

  1. Incorporate SDoH into all reimbursement models, for all cancer patients

  2. Provide incentives to act not just ask

  3. Use data to close the feedback loop so practices can learn and improve quickly

Incorporate SDoH into all reimbursement models, for all cancer patients

Identifying and addressing social determinants of health should be a standard of care. To that end, we need to incorporate this practice into all reimbursement models and extend it to all cancer patients. This will empower providers to ensure equitable and just outcomes for all the patients they serve.

Provide incentives for care teams to act not just ask

According to a survey done by AmerisourceBergen, 93% of oncologists would be open to further education on addressing SDoH in cancer care and reimbursement opportunities. However, as of now they are only eligible for reimbursements when assessing SDoH with a patient, not when they take action to help the patient. The federal government can boost innovation by allowing programs like Medicaid and Medicare to more extensively reimburse SDoH efforts outside of the doctor’s office, including the efforts of navigators and social workers. Incentivizing action also helps to build trust between providers and patients and ensures the immediate delivery of support where and when it is needed most.

Use data to close the feedback loop so practices can learn and improve quickly

Operationalizing SDoH in community oncology requires a combination of people, process, and technology. Supporting the adoption of technology solutions capable of delivering real-time data on how providers can improve will expedite both providers’ and the industry’s ability to adjust. The ultimate goal would be a connected healthcare database, where providers can see a patient’s SDoH, medical history, etc., all in one place.

Where does Patient Discovery fit into the solution?

The Patient Discovery platform empowers care teams with real-time data on the non-medical challenges, priorities, and preferences of patients in their care. This information empowers care teams to proactively address patient challenges and facilitate better engagement in shared decision making. In addition, our platform aggregates data across the health system— and this information can be shared with key stakeholders to make better decisions when it comes to addressing these SDoH. In the end, these problems require all stakeholders to work together, including the federal government. The problems are urgent, and they are enormous. Together we must act quicker and more comprehensively.

Norm Shore, CEO of Patient Discovery


White Paper: Practical Strategies for Identifying and Addressing Social Determinants of Health in Community Oncology


Operationalizing SDoH in community oncology: practical strategies & reimbursement opportunities