7 Predictions for the Future of Oncology Care on International Women’s Day

March 8, 2021

Also published in Becker’s Hospital Review

There is no denying COVID-19 has transformed much of our world, perhaps permanently. But exactly what that means for future cancer patients and providers is yet to be seen. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, female leaders and physicians at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), share their predictions on many facets of cancer care in a post-pandemic world—from highlighting inequities in care and research to the delivery of in-home oncology care.

  1. Jaci Brown, Chief Communications Officer
    The impending cancer shadow curve of undiagnosed or delayed cancer diagnoses due to COVID-19 disruptions, heightens our responsibility as communicators to raise awareness of potentially life-saving information about screening and early detection. For example, a colonoscopy is a screening technique that essentially prevents colorectal cancer, yet less than two thirds of the eligible population is screened for this preventable disease. My father was part of that statistic and colorectal cancer took his life. By partnering with physicians and scientific experts, translating information into action, and finding ways to reach underserved populations, there is enormous opportunity for communications to empower people and engender real-life impact. 

  2. Jennifer Greenman, Chief Information Officer
    Advancements in precision diagnostics and therapeutics, facilitated by augmented intelligence at the point of care and informed by advanced analytics, will transform both the effectiveness of oncology care delivery and the experience of being a cancer patient. It’s critical that these technology innovations reach patients in all communities, regardless of location or socioeconomic status. As leaders in cancer care, we have a vital responsibility to empower patients and their loved ones with the tools and resources necessary to access these technologies and ultimately improve outcomes. To facilitate this, the responsibility is also ours to train the next generation workforce to carry out this important mission with a compassionate, outcomes-driven mindset, because at the cross-section of humanity and technology is where we’ll move oncology care forward.

  3. Anita Johnson, MD, FACS, Chief of Surgery and National Breast Cancer Program Director
    Although COVID-19 has shed light on disparities in care, cancer disparities have existed for decades. The pandemic has also shown us that we can impact humanity faster when we work together to break down bureaucracy for the greater good. Future focus should be on addressing disparities with education and concrete solutions and for providers, insurers and policy makers. Solutions like greater healthcare and screening access for African American women who are more likely to die from breast cancer, and closing in on similar disparities that exist in colon, prostate and lung cancer, are critical components. Without measured action, I predict we will see more and more late-stage disease with poorer outcomes. As new data are published further revealing inequities, it is the shared responsibility of us all to advocate for equality and ultimately, for change. The consequences of not doing so are too real and too deadly.

  4. Shayma Kazmi, MD, RPh, Medical Oncologist and Hematologist
    After a long history of enrollment challenges, the already small number of adult cancer patients successfully enrolled in novel oncology research trials is now even smaller due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. But given these research limitations and access issues, we now clearly see the solution lies in urgently addressing socioeconomic, ethnic, religious, racial and gender biases. The ideal future state of cancer research is inclusive and truly representative of the majority of real-life patients. Oncology clinical trials should be more efficient, less cumbersome and accessible not only at the larger academic medical centers, but at most clinics where cancer care is delivered. For cancer treatment to truly advance, we must study it in all those it touches, not just a select few.

  5. Chevon M. Rariy, MD, Telehealth Program Director
    Understaffed rural health systems contribute to poor health outcomes, but telehealth is changing that. The pandemic has demonstrated the substantially positive impact of telehealth in improving access to quality and affordable healthcare, especially in underserved and rural communities. Amid the pandemic, virtual health allowed oncology providers to continue to treat patients in the fight for their lives. It enabled a more patient-centered and connected care approach, including remote monitoring of high-risk patients to bring care into the home. While some predict telemedicine visits will replace in-person, I expect a combination of the two will be used to augment cancer care in underserved areas. As a result, we will likely see a deeper partnership between oncologists and community health providers—one that will ultimately benefit the system as a whole.

  6. Andrea Redmond, National Board Member and Breast Cancer Survivor 
    The pain and grief felt in 2020 will have a lasting impact on the psyche of this country. With images of our healthcare workers holding the hands of COVID-19 patients alone and in crisis came a heightened awareness of how it feels to fight for your life. This same kind of anxiety and fear of an uncertain future comes with a cancer diagnosis. Compassion is how we met the moment and what shifted the healthcare paradigm in 2020, and I predict it is what will take us forward as a differentiating factor in the treatment of cancer patients. Considering the psychosocial needs and humanity of patients and their families on their cancer journey will be more important than ever.

  7. Linde Finsrud Wilson, Chief Strategy Officer
    Management of specific cancer-related care in the home has proven feasible, as validated amid COVID-19 care disruptions and increased patient anxiety about the hospital setting. This, combined with the reality that the home is one of the least expensive care settings, will move more care in-home. Additionally, we can expect related innovations such as home chemo infusion, physician telehealth visits and “hospital at home” approaches to expand. Further advances in technology and home monitoring will increase the value of a home-based model as they provide increased engagement with the patient. With reductions in the cost of care and increased patient comfort during the treatment process, this is a welcome development in cancer care.
About Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is a national oncology network of hospitals and outpatient care centers offering an integrated approach that combines surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and advancements in precision medicine with supportive therapies to manage side effects and enhance quality of life during treatment and into survivorship. CTCA also offers qualified patients a range of clinical trials that may reveal new treatment options supported by scientific and investigational research. CTCA patient satisfaction scores consistently rank among the highest for all cancer care providers in the country. Visit cancercenter.com for more information.