Patricia Kelmar, Senior Policy Advisor for the Quality Institute, recently attended ERCI’s 22nd Annual Conference, which focused on key issues in cancer care delivery.

1. What are some of the most critical policy issues today in cancer care delivery?
One of the significant challenges now is the cost of emerging and often extremely expensive treatments. As payment systems move toward value-based payments, the challenge will be finding the most cost-effective way to deliver the care people need.

2. So how are physicians and payers going to determine which treatments will truly help patients and which ones are inappropriate?With greater sources of data we are able to better track patient health profiles and the success of their treatments. We have cancer registries, public health data, electronic health records and other sources of data about people’s health and lifestyles.

3. Much of this data has been available for years. What’s really new?
The way we are using the data is changing. We’re beginning to use the tools of Big Data to better collect and analyze data to provide life-saving information. Equally important, we are developing new sources of data. New discoveries will be made possible through data sets such as those generated through the Precision Medicine Initiative’s national research cohort, which will enroll 1 million or more volunteers who agree to share their EHRs and genomic information.

4. Who is going to pay to obtain genomic data? That’s expensive.
Genomic data is helping providers identify the most effective treatments for certain sub-,types of cancer. Gene sequencing is a powerful although expensive tool. Yet some plans are covering the cost. Intermountain Healthcare, for instance, determined that it is more cost effective to identify specific genes to ensure that a patient gets the most appropriate treatment right away. The investment of genomic sequencing will allow doctors to learn what specific chemotherapy or treatment is exactly right for an exact type of patient. Payers will not pay for ineffective treatments and, more important, patients will not endure them.

5. How does this relate to our Winter Conference on Dec. 3?
Dr. Andrew Pecora is at the forefront of using Big Data to better understand which cancer treatments truly can make a difference. He is the founder of COTA, a company that is developing national evidence-based benchmarks of patient outcomes and costs. He will be our keynote speaker. I expect his presentation to generate a lively discussion touching on topics such as: How can we bring this type of innovation to New Jersey? Who should pay for collecting and analyzing data? What policy and moral questions are raised?