OneOncology Offers Support for Community Oncology Clinics

Roxanne Nelson, RN, BSN

August 15, 2022

The community cancer care landscape in the United States has been changing rapidly over the past decade, and not for the better. Many community oncology clinics or practices have closed, or been acquired by hospitals or a corporate entity, and many have struggled financially, as reported by the Community Oncology Alliance (COA).

However, this trend appears to be plateauing. While the rate of acquisitions of physician practices by hospitals is still rising, there is also an increase in mergers among practices and acquisitions by physician-run organizations. In other words, physicians are joining forces and finding ways to keep their practices independent.

OneOncology is helping with this growing trend. A national platform for independent oncology practices, based in Nashville, Tennessee, it describes itself as a physician-driven company that collaborates with practices to deliver comprehensive cancer care in communities.

"We work for the physicians and we compete with hospitals to offer physician support," commented Jeff Patton, MD, chief executive officer of OneOncology.

"We offer operational support and expertise and access to capital if the practice is looking into expansion or to offer new services like radiation oncology. They maintain their independence and autonomy and we are there to help," he explained in an interview.

OneOncology launched in 2018 with the help of $200 million in backing from the private equity firm General Atlantic, and using cancer-specific electronic health record software developed by Flatiron Health. At the time, it had partnerships with three large practices, Tennessee Oncology, New York Blood & Cancer Specialists, and West Cancer Center, which together represented more than 200 oncology providers.

Since then, the group has continued to expand. "We are now at 14 practices, with the latest, Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan, joining in June," said Eric Hoffman, who handles public affairs and communications for OneOncology. 

The 14 practices that currently comprise OneOncology include 757 providers, more than 260 sites of care, and saw a total of 477,820 patients in 2021.

The group also helps practices grow, Hoffman commented.

As an example, the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders (CCBD), located in Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas, recently announced that it expanded, adding three oncology practices and four physicians — a gynecologic oncologist, two radiation oncologists, and a fellowship-trained breast surgeon. The physicians were all recruited by OneOncology, the center notes in a press release.

Barry Russo, chief executive officer of the CCBD, commented: "The OneOncology affiliation has been beneficial for our physicians, staff, and patients. With their help, we've grown by nearly 50% since joining OneOncology, including adding practices and recruiting physicians to join our team."

"Beyond growth, OneOncology provides a physician-led platform approach to deliver standard of care and innovative therapies to patients, test value-based contracting pilot projects, and bring clinical trials to community practices," he said.

"OneOncology's services are incredibly important to oncology practices that want to prioritize remaining independent and having their own autonomy to provide the best cancer care possible in communities where patients live," Russo said in an email to Medscape Medical News.

Models of Care

OneOncology is not the only group seeking to bring practices together and keep them operating independently. "There are a lot of different models and partners out there supporting community oncology practices," commented Nicolas Ferreyros, managing director of policy, advocacy, and communications at COA.

As well as the newer groups such as OneOncology and American Oncology Network, there are older standbys such as US Oncology, he told Medscape Medical News.

"COA welcomes anyone that is there to help practices continue to operate and serve their patients. We do not pick favorites or recommend anything to anyone," he added. 

That said, Ferreyros added every OneOncology practice he knows of seems to be doing well. "The practices get support for operations, technology, research, financial resources, and more," he said. "It seems like a win-win."

OneOncology's Patton explained the arrangement as follows: "Practices sign a management services agreement and then receive all the expertise and services offered. This aggregates buying power to essential items like drugs and equipment. Our management services are based on profitability as opposed to a fee with top-line revenue. Our incentives are aligned."

Increased patient access to clinical trials is also part of the model. "Trials are expanding into the community, which makes them more diverse and allows easier participation for patients," Patton commented. "We are helping to get the trials to these sites."

Roxanne Nelson is a registered nurse and award-winning medical writer who has written for many major news outlets and is a regular contributor to Medscape.

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