Multidisciplinary Teamwork Needed for Survivorship Care

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) maintains that a multidisciplinary team is the cornerstone of quality care; however, despite incentives and interest, little is known about how having these teams affects the delivery of cancer care. At the 2016 Cancer Survivorship Symposium, Linda A. Jacobs, PhD, RN, Director, Development of Cancer Survivorship Clinical Programs, Abramson Cancer Center, Penn Medicine, Philadelphia, described the process that is necessary to develop and implement multidisciplinary survivorship care into practice while identifying barriers to providing that care.

“The ideal cancer care team should be providing care from diagnosis through the end of life,” said Dr Jacobs. “Diagnosis and treatment, primary care, survivorship care, palliative care, and hospice should all be part of this package.”

As she reported, the goals of medical team–based care are clear—to reduce mortality and to improve patient management, quality, and value—and are accomplished through the cooperation of a team comprised of surgeons, radiation therapists, medical oncologists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.

“The demand for teams has grown in parallel with healthcare reform and the public’s expectations for improved quality and value,” said Dr Jacobs, who noted the establishment of the patient-centered medical home and accountable care organizations as drivers of the multidisciplinary team model.

What Makes Teamwork Effective?

Despite the demand for teams, questions remain about the structural and hierarchical components of the ideal multidisciplinary team.

“When we talk about multidisciplinary cancer care teams, I think it is important to discuss MDT [multidisciplinary team] clinical decision-making,” said Dr Jacobs. “How does the team really work together?”

In 2011, a systematic review of quality-­of-care management decisions by multidisciplinary teams looked at the clinical, technical, and social factors that affect the quality of clinical decision-making. The analysis determined that social factors affect management decisions by cancer multidisciplinary teams.

“In all of these studies, team decisions were made by physicians, nursing personnel did not have an active role on the teams, and patient preferences were not discussed,” said Dr Jacobs. “It is clear that leadership skills training and systematic input from nursing personnel are needed.”

Significant work has been done to develop these reports, she said, citing the Institute of Medicine’s 2006 report, “From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition”; ASCO’s 2006 “Future of the Oncologist Workforce”; and the Institute of Medicine’s 2009 “Oncology Workforce Report.”

“There has been progress since those meetings, with an emphasis on changing traditional models, and integrating and expanding the role of advanced practice providers within collaborative and team-based care models,” said Dr Jacobs.

The operational elements of teamwork in cancer care have not been adequately studied.

“Studies continue to focus on the role of the oncologists versus primary care physicians in survivorship care so we know what is preferred by patients,” said Dr Jacobs. “How teams affect cancer care delivery and, more important, the role that team members play in providing care need to be assessed.”

Ideal Components of Survivorship Care

According to Dr Jacobs, a model program would feature individualized, risk-based follow-up that includes medical risk assessment; the management of long-term and late effects; an assessment of psychologic, behavioral, and social functioning; lifestyle modification of unhealthy habits; and care coordination, either consultative or ongoing care.

“The teamwork should be occurring with all different oncology providers—primary care providers as well as specialty care providers,” said Dr Jacobs. “Patients should be referred when they need to go to endocrine, cardiology, counseling, or physical therapy.”

“For institutions that have an advanced practice provider or a nurse navigator, those roles can be critical in guiding the patient through this process of referrals,” she added.

More Questions Than Answers

Given the diversity of practice settings, Dr Jacobs stressed that a one-size-fits-all model fits no one, and yet, the community should still strive for consensus about what care should include. In addition, there are payment issues to consider, as well as the aforementioned lack of evidence on the impact of different models.

But perhaps the biggest barrier to multidisciplinary care is the limited oncology workforce. “It is more eminent than not that we do something about it,” said Dr Jacobs, who concluded with more questions than answers.

“Who should provide care, what should survivorship care encompass, and when should survivorship-focused visits occur?” she asked. “We need adequate surveillance guidelines that everyone can follow.”

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