Oncology Rounds

Pennsylvania alliance puts cancer quality data in the spotlight


Rachel Wolfowitz, Oncology Roundtable

The Pennsylvania Health Care Quality Alliance (PHCQA)—a group of hospitals, physicians, and payers across the state that voluntarily reports quality data to the public—recently added five cancer-related measures to its reporting. 

More than two-thirds of the state's cancer centers have joined the alliance and agreed to publicly disclose their performance information. Despite broad participation, it remains unclear how the initiative will impact the overall quality of cancer care in Pennsylvania. Read on to learn more about this first-of-its-kind reporting initiative.


Going public with cancer quality of care data

The PHCQA has tracked data on various health care benchmarks for Pennsylvania hospitals since 2008, but this is the first time it has published cancer care data. While the PPS-exempt cancer hospital quality reporting initiative is slated to launch in 2015, the PHCQA initiative is the first example we've seen of public disclosure of oncology quality measure performance.

The five initial measures of cancer care quality in the PHCQA reports include three breast cancer treatment metrics and two colon cancer treatment metrics. The metrics are from the Commission on Cancer’s Cancer Program Practice Profile Reports (CP3R). 

The Commission on Cancer has been providing accredited practices with reports on their own quality measures for nearly a decade, but the PHCQA initiative is the first time such information will be publicly reported.


Putting the information to use

One of the goals of the PHCQA is to equip cancer patients to become more informed consumers. However, there is still a lack of understanding of how patients will digest, comprehend, and respond to this information—if they do at all.

Even so, these public reports not only provide patients with access to information on the quality of oncology programs; they also give Pennsylvania cancer centers the ability to compare themselves to their peers. 

By publicizing quality metrics, the PHCQA puts cancer centers in direct competition on quality performance. This competition has the potential to boost the overall quality of cancer care statewide, both by encouraging providers to raise the performance bar and by creating opportunities for best practice sharing.


Lingering questions about cancer quality data

The alliance hopes to release additional quality measures for cancer programs in the coming years. However, the same questions that challenge other cancer quality reporting initiatives still stand here:

  • Which metrics most effectively capture overall quality?
  • What process measures serve as the best proxies for long-term outcomes?
  • How will patients and providers act on quality information, if at all?
  • How can providers collect and report data in a timely manner?

The website acknowledges that difficult data collection means that posted information might be delayed by as much as 24 months.


An experiment to keep an eye on

We're interested to see how the PHCQA initiative will impact quality of cancer care in Pennsylvania, particularly as it expands to measure more aspects of oncology program quality, such as needless care. 

More broadly, as transparency in health care quality and costs becomes more common, we'll be keeping an eye out for any cancer care providers or payers following in the footsteps of PHCQA.

Learn More

Read our study, Strategic Road Map for Cancer Quality, for five steps oncology service line leaders can take to develop a value-based quality strategy.



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