With the launch of a new Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, Memorial Sloan Kettering is stepping up its efforts to develop policy that specifically applies to cancer care. Studies will be directed at how to optimize clinical outcomes while curbing costs.
Robert E. Wittes, Physician-In-Chief of Memorial Hospital, said the new center will assemble a multidisciplinary faculty to conduct research addressing an eclectic menu of issues — for example, how new information technologies could help integrate the many aspects of a patient’s treatment, or how the procedures by which new therapies are tested and approved could be made more efficient.
“The development of cancer-related health policy is especially crucial at a time when national efforts to reform our healthcare system are moving into high gear,” he observed.
Many of the problems patients and hospitals grapple with confront all branches of medicine alike. But in some aspects, “cancer care is special,” said Peter B. Bach, a pulmonary and critical care physician and epidemiologist, who will be heading the new center.
“For example, the interplay between research and clinical practice is very advanced in the area of cancer,” he explained, “and new guidelines are needed to better fit our care model.” And in no other area of medicine have the costs for diagnosis and treatment soared as high.
“Our most pressing issue is to help establish reforms that will lower healthcare spending without harming the quality of cancer care or interfering with innovation,” Dr. Bach noted, adding that this will require rigorous analysis and evaluation. “The problems of our healthcare system should be dealt with in the same way we approach science or medicine — with a long-term, nonpartisan focus.”