The Changing World of Oncology Practice

Marie Rosenthal, MS
Published: Monday, Jun 18, 2012
Fish jump from smaller bowl to larger bowl

Economic pressures are forcing many oncologists to leave small private practices.

Dr. Thomas L. Whittaker

Thomas L. Whittaker, MD

The Community Oncology Alliance (COA) has tracked the financial health of 1042 community practices. The organization reports a 40.6% increase in the number of practices that have been acquired by another organization or merged into hospitals. In a 2011 report, COA noted 315 practices that had been acquired by hospitals and 11 practices that merged or were acquired by another organization. Another 199 practices closed, and 369 reported they are in a financial bind.

Dr. Jeffery C. Ward

Jeffery C. Ward, MD

“The solo or small group practices are going to go away,” said Jeffery C. Ward, MD, a medical oncologist at Puget Sound Cancer Centers, an affiliate of the Swedish Cancer Institute in Edmonds, Washington. Ward sees two types of private practice affiliations emerging: those that are part of a hospital or academic institution, and those that are part of a large cancer management network.

The road well traveled Cancer treatment used to require inpatient care. Chemotherapy was inelegant, and it was difficult to manage the nausea and side effects. As antiemetic regimens and shorter drug infusions were developed, cancer care evolved to outpatient care, said Whittaker, who is also president of the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC).

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