I've just been diagnosed with cancer. My doctor goes to several different hospitals, and has asked me to think about where I want to go for treatment. One of the hospitals has an 'accredited cancer program.' What does that really mean for me?
Learning you have cancer starts you along a journey that can be filled with uncertainty and lots of decisions. Having trusted people beside you -- your family and friends, your doctors and care team-- is critical, as is determining the right treatment options for you. Assuming you are able to choose where you are treated, you want to look at a variety of factors in making your choice of facility. Accreditation is one that can help you make an informed decision.
What is cancer accreditation?
Healthcare accreditations validate that a facility such as a hospital or clinic, or a specific program (like oncology care) within a facility, has met or exceeded a set of quality and care standards set by an "accrediting" body of experts. Accreditation for cancer programs is awarded by The Joint Commission, the National Institutes of Health, and most commonly, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Commission on Cancer (CoC).
The CoC is made up of different professionals and organizations committed to setting quality standards for all phases of cancer care, accrediting programs and facilities that meet those standards, and then monitoring care to ensure ongoing quality.
The ultimate goal of the CoC and programs seeking accreditation is high-quality, patient-centered oncology care that improves patients' quality of life, recovery and survivorship. The CoC accredits hospital programs, free-standing cancer centers, individual hospitals or cancer care networks such as The Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Midwest Health. Accreditation Surveys are performed every three years.
How does a program or hospital become CoC accredited?
Accreditation is based on a complete evaluation by an expert team of "surveyors," who measure the program against 34 standards involving the quality of data, range of services, patient outcomes and program management. For example, the standards may cover the availability of genetic testing, access to advanced diagnostic and treatment technology and rehab. The surveyors evaluate the information submitted and conduct on-site visits.
Why should I care about accreditation? Is the treatment better at an accredited program?
It's an important consideration. The CoC consists of experts and organizations representing virtually every aspect of cancer care, with a clear mission of constantly finding better ways to care for patients with cancer. Facilities that seek accreditation have invested in that mission, and strive to offer the following advantages:
- Patient-centered care – The doctors, nurses and other care professionals in an accredited cancer program understand the many physical, emotional, psychological, and financial aspects of a cancer diagnosis. They also know that one size doesn't treat all. They are committed to working with patients and families to develop the best individualized treatment plans for the entire experience.
- Proven national guidelines – Standards of care and policies are based on nationally recognized proven guidelines to ensure quality care.
- Comprehensive care – Provides for care needs at all points of the cancer journey -- diagnosis to treatment to recovery and survivorship, or palliative and hospice care.
- Participation in national database – Submit anonymous patient data to the National Cancer Database (NCDB) where it can be analyzed alongside patient data from throughout the country. This helps raise the collective understanding of all aspects of the disease and benefits individual patients.
- A multidisciplinary, team approach – While an oncologist can be considered the "quarterback" of cancer care, multidisciplinary care means you may have several different types of specialists on your case all collaborating to develop and support you through the best treatment plan.
- Access to research trials – Provide the opportunity for patients to access leading-edge treatments that are not yet generally available.
- Quality care close to home – The comfort of home cannot be overstated for those affected by cancer. An accredited network or program allows patients to receive cancer care close to home, while also having access to the latest specialized technologies and clinical trial expertise.
- Access to specialized services and education – Prevention and early detection programs, wellness and cancer education, psychosocial and nutrition support and access to genetic testing and counseling are available through accredited programs.
What kinds of accreditation are there and what do they mean?
There are several different categories of CoC-accredited programs that depend on factors such as the size of the facility, number of patients treated per year and areas of specialization. Some of the categories are:
- Hospital networks accreditation – The CoC's Integrated Network Cancer Program (INCP) recognizes a network of facilities that offer comprehensive, connected cancer care and services under one umbrella. It allows for community - based care with easy access to advanced technology, procedures and resources available in larger hospitals.
- Individual community cancer programs/hospitals – Depending on the number of cancer patients treated, individual hospitals are generally accredited as "comprehensive community cancer programs," or "community cancer programs."
- Specialty accreditations – Accreditation for specialized facilities such as pediatric cancer programs (PCP) or Veterans Affairs Cancer Programs (VACP) to facilities treating those specific patients. There are also specialized accreditations for academic and research-oriented facilities.
- Treatment-specific accreditations – Accreditation for facilities that specialize in rectal and breast cancers.
Accredited Cancer Treatment in KC
There are many considerations when choosing a cancer care facility. Accreditation provides one way of evaluating whether a facility may be right for you. The Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Midwest Health is a CoC-accredited Integrated Network Cancer Program, one of only 63 nationally to earn network accreditation. We offer care through seven HCA Midwest Health cancer network accredited hospitals.
Our hospitals offer comprehensive and personalized advanced cancer care, access to cutting-edge treatments and some of the area's brightest minds in cancer care. Our Kansas City oncologists offer years of expertise in treating all types of cancer. To learn more, contact us at (816) 751-3775.