Healthcare costs in America have reached “crisis” proportions, with the average annual healthcare premium for an American family now $25,000, while average family income is $60,000.
This was the message from U.S.-based Dr Blase N. Polite in his keynote address to the European Cancer Summit on Saturday.
“Health insurance is going up and up and this situation now constitutes a crisis and, as we all know, cancer is constantly in the spotlight when it comes to healthcare.”
In his 45-minute address, he focused largely on the costs associated with healthcare, mostly in the U.S. but also in Europe, and the need for quality cancer care.
Dr Polite is a member of the board at ASCO, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, described as the world's leading professional organisation for physicians and oncology professionals caring for people with cancer.
He outlined the work done by ASCO, saying its focus was on “conquering cancer through research, education, and promotion of the highest quality patient care.”
ASCO represents 45,000 oncology professionals who care for people living with cancer.
“Health insurance is going up and up and this situation now constitutes a crisis and, as we all know, cancer is constantly in the spotlight when it comes to healthcare” Dr Blase N. Polite
The aim, he noted, was a “world where cancer is prevented or cured and every survivor is healthy.”
Dr Polite, who has a public policy background but is now a highly-respected oncologist, spoke of what he called the “Triple Aim” – better health, better care and lower costs.
ASCO, he told the summit, has 172 “measures” aimed at assessing the quality of healthcare, plus the “Quality Oncology Practice Initiative”, designed to promote excellence in cancer care.
“These,” he said, “help us to be accountable for what we do.”
One area where he believes Europe “can learn” from the U.S. is in “value-based payment systems” in oncology.
“However,” he cautioned, “it will not be easy to reconcile the two systems, the U.S. system and the European one.”
The physician, who specialises in the treatment of patients with colorectal and anal cancer, told the packed summit, “The focus, whichever system is employed, has to be on fundamental patient safety and satisfaction.”
“We all like to think, in the U.S., Europe and everywhere, that what we do is the best and above the average. That is normal way to think. But what is needed are basic levels of care, no matter where we are” Dr Blase N. Polite
“It is all about getting more for doing more. That is where we all have to go,” he said.
Speaking on the last day of the summit, which this year has the theme “European Cancer Care: Across the Borders,” he concluded a lively session by calling for a “worldwide global standard” for cancer care.
Dr Polite, who currently oversees the negotiations and implementation of alternative payment models for cancer, said that “no matter where you live, in the U.S., Europe or anywhere,” a cancer patient should have the right to the same “high quality” standard of care.
“We all like to think, in the U.S., Europe and everywhere, that what we do is the best and above the average. That is normal way to think. But what is needed are basic levels of care, no matter where we are.”
The session was moderated by Prof Philip Poortmans, president of European CanCer Organisation, ECCO, which organised the summit.