Innovation in Cancer Care Delivery in the Era of COVID-19

Samyukta Mullangi, MD, MBA; Stephen M. Schleicher, MD, MBA; Emeline M. Aviki, MD, MBA


J Oncol Pract. 2020;16(11):718-719. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Seemingly overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the accustomed ways in which health care is practiced and provided in the United States. Where once our health care ecosystem rested on a doctrine of high capacity and throughput, now the risk of contagion and spread is so high that providers and patients are both seeking to minimize touchpoints with the health care system as much as possible.[1] COVID-19 has negatively affected cancer care in many ways, putting patients and health care professionals at risk during an already stressful treatment journey. Many cancer care providers have been required to limit new patient visits, halt all clinical trial enrollments, and delay any nonurgent clinical care, which leaves us all weary of the potential for worse outcomes. However, the silver lining of the crisis is that the incentives forcibly established by COVID-19 may lead to care that is higher value and more patient centered.

For years, policymakers have attempted to facilitate the adoption of more patient-centered care models that maximize value. Within the world of cancer care, the Oncology Care Model, which provided additional funding to practices to invest in nursing triage, patient navigation programs, and the like, represented a big step toward this goal.[2] Still, participation was voluntary, physicians often expressed wariness about shifting into novel payment models, and there remained significant performance variation across and within practices.[3]

Given the historic reluctance to adopt this type of change, the rapid transformation of our industry at the scale that has been brought on by COVID-19 is particularly astonishing. We outline 3 changes in health care delivery that we hope have staying power even after this crisis lifts.