At Breastlink we have always sought to respond to patient needs in a comprehensive way. I believe this requires responding to the patient as a whole person – not to a diagnosis.
I also believe we are charged with a broader imperative – to constantly review what we do. To help ensure we provide optimal breast cancer treatment it is essential for us to be informed by clinical experience and to understand the latest developments in breast cancer research.
As a practice, it means that we choose to be accountable not only, most importantly, to our patients, but to be scrutinized by an organization that sets the standards of oncology excellence across the country.
Roughly three years ago a colleague came back from a conference and mentioned a then new program, sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), that sought to define the standards for comprehensive and state-of-the-art oncology care. This standard of care, known as the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI), is a voluntary, self-assessment and improvement program launched by ASCO to help medical oncology practices assess the quality of care they provide to patients.
In Fall 2012 we began participating in the QOPI program and in July 2013 we announced Breastlink of Orange received QOPI certification (press release). What has subsequently inspired and excited us about QOPI is the fundamental requirement of meticulous and responsive patient care. The challenge from QOPI is to consistently meet the standard of excellence not for a single aspect of patient care or at one unique moment in time, but consistently with an eye to continuous assessment and review. The following standards are just a few of the criteria QOPI utilizes to measure quality care:
- Tumor staging based upon pathology that is confirmed at diagnosis
- Requiring certification and regular competency assessments for all personnel preparing and/or delivering chemotherapy
- Ensuring that our physicians develop treatment plans that are based on ASCO standards developed by the top physicians in the country and meeting the national standards of care.
One of the QOPI standards that is especially important, but often not comprehensively addressed, is the requirement that we regularly measure patient distress, track it over time and respond to it meaningfully. QOPI mandates that we define and deliver a specific process to both measure and to respond to patient distress.
I will share thoughts on what we, as a practice, have learned about patient distress and how to assess it in a follow-up blog post in the near future. If you have questions, or if I can be of assistance in managing your breast cancer related distress, please do not hesitate to contact me at 714.541.0101.