Bringing the Oncology Community Together

[Commentary]
Should Your Practice Join a Provider-Based Research Network?

Tony Berberabe, MPH
Published Online: Thursday, January 2, 2014
Provider-based research networks (PBRNs) make clinical trials available to community-based practices. This is important because community-based practices are where most oncology patients receive their cancer care. But to consider joining these networks, oncologists and practice managers must consider the financial impact and return on investment (ROI) or business case.

Paula H. Song, PhD, an assistant professor in the division of health services management and policy at The Ohio State University College of Public Health, and colleagues reviewed the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) community oncology program, applying a multiple case study approach to 5 NCI sites. Their findings were published in a recent issue of Health Care Management Review and suggest a method to document the business case for a provider when they consider joining a PBRN.

The NCI’s Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) is a long-standing federally funded clinical trial program, but there currently is little practical guidance in the literature to assist provider organizations in analyzing the business case for establishing and operating a PBRN. Song and colleagues conducted this research because of the lack of evidence to help providers explore this potential revenue stream further.

The researchers conducted 41 semi-structured interviews then developed a spreadsheet-based tool that included advice for evaluating the business case for provider participation. They identified key themes that were used to develop the financial tool.

Key concerns that oncologists and practice managers should consider include start-up costs, direct revenue from the NCI CCOP grant, direct expenses required to maintain CCOP research infrastructure, and incidental benefits—notably downstream revenue from CCOP patients. In the study, the authors noted the importance of this downstream revenue to the oncology practice, which was a significant contributor to the business case for the CCOP.

Song and colleagues concluded that “providing a method for documenting the business case for CCOP or other PBRN involvement will contribute to the long-term sustainability and expansion of these programs by improving providers’ understanding of the financial implications of participation.” The researchers wrote that the lack of knowledge concerning the benefits of joining a CCOP could result in provider reluctance and affect patient access to new oncology therapies. 

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