It's Time to Prove Value and Move the Needle on Quality

Tony Hagen @oncobiz
Published: Friday, Apr 15, 2016
Jennie R. Crews, MD, FACP

Jennie R. Crews, MD, FACP

In March, Jennie R. Crews, MD, FACP, was appointed president of the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC), replacing Steve D’Amato, BSPharm, BCOP, and taking over at a time when oncology practices are under acute pressure to transition from fee-for-service payment to value-based care, a process of abrupt change.

In an interview with OncLive, Crews, who is medical director for cancer services in the PeaceHealth Northwest Network, talked about how her 18 years of diverse activity in the oncology sector would translate into strong leadership for the ACCC and its membership of 20,000. During the question-and-answer session, Crews also discussed the top challenges faced by oncology practices as well as strategies the ACCC is following to help its membership meet and rise above those challenges.

OncLive: Please describe your practice in Washington and Alaska.

Dr Crews: PeaceHealth for Cancer Services has four different cancer programs, the largest is in Bellingham, Washington, and that’s kind of our primary cancer center. It’s the largest of the four. We have four medical oncologists, three radiation oncologists, and a physician’s assistant (in Bellingham). We have a medical oncologist at one of our other sites full-time, and then the other two sites operate as satellites. We go out to Peace Island Medical Center, which is on San Juan Island, and we go to Ketchikan, Alaska. And those two satellite sites are unique in that they can only be reached by air or water.

Has the value transition reached that area of the United States?

It is starting to. I think the Northwest part of the country has been a little slower than some other regions in seeing some of this transition happen, but we’re beginning to feel that occurring now. There have been a number of practices in the state of Washington that have applied to be part of the oncology care model that The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is introducing, which is a foray into the value-based world. So we are on the cusp of entering that, absolutely.

What is it about your background and your interests that makes you the choice for leading the ACCC at this time?

I’m, first of all, very honored to be selected to serve as president of this organization. It’s a unique organization in that it really contains membership from various models of providing care. We have academic members, we have community practice members, we have hospitalbased members. And one of the things that I’ve had the privilege of doing is practicing within all of those environments: I’ve been an academic oncologist, I’ve practiced in a private practice multispecialty group, and I’ve also practiced, and currently do so, in a community hospital–based cancer center. So, I feel like I have an understanding of the membership and can represent all of those points of view.

Any particular experiences that enable you to not only empathize with the members, but perhaps propose or lead solution-driven changes?

In my leadership roles, on the board of ACCC, I’ve been involved in a number of initiatives and have also been able to learn from the organization. One of the great things about the ACCC is that it is truly a learning organization. We like to say we’re not about the “why” or the “what,” we’re about the “how.” We’re focused on implementing practice changes. One of the great things that we do at our fall meeting is share with one another, and there are innovator awards that are given to organizations that are doing interesting and different things. So I’ve been able to really learn from my colleagues within the organization and hear what they’re doing to prepare for the value-based world.

What are the top challenges facing oncology practices today?

We do annual surveys of our membership on top trends in cancer care. One of the challenges is the lack of reimbursement for support services. One thing that’s important is having a team-based approach with services such as social workers, dietitians, and navigators, etc, who are very key to the oncology team in providing care coordination for patients and addressing their holistic needs. But many of these services aren’t supported, and so it’s a huge challenge for our membership to be able to offer all of these things to patients when we’re not reimbursed for those services.

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