ASCO QOPI® Certification Program Benefits Oncology Practices and Patients

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Christa Braun-Inglis, MS, NP, has seen her last three practices certified through ASCO’s Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI®). Ms. Braun-Inglis, a nurse practitioner with Kaiser Hawaii Region, was not solely responsible for the designations, although she helped some of the practices become certified. She does, however, take pride in knowing her current and former practices are committed to delivering the highest form of cancer care.

“When patients come to you, they want to know ‘Why should I come to you for my oncology care?’,” Ms. Braun-Inglis said. “[With QOPI], you can show you’ve actually met this certain standard. It gives patients and third-party payers more faith in you to provide quality care.”

The QOPI Certification Program is a 3-year certification for outpatient hematology-oncology practices that helps medical providers facilitate better care for patients through a series of performance measures and standards measured through data submitted by individual practices.

There are 261 QOPI-Certified Practices in the United States, ranging from small practices to large practices, such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and Tennessee Oncology. One of the larger institutions participating in the QOPI Certification Program is the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Issam Makhoul, MD, helped the institution receive its certification, a process, he admitted, that was larger than he initially anticipated.

QOPI Certification did not solely involve the university’s hematology-oncology division, but rather the whole institution, requiring significant buy-in from staff, Dr. Makhoul said. The end result, however, not only improved the patient care at UAMS, but also raised expectations for the smaller practices in Arkansas, he said. “As a leading institution, you lead by example. In that sense, in my opinion, you are setting the stage here for other institutions to follow suit.”

W. Charles Penley, MD, FASCO, a partner with QOPI-Certified Tennessee Oncology, said the quality certification allowed his practice to identify areas for improvement and improved communication between physicians and nurses. ASCO understands the specific needs of oncologic practices, he said.

“It is a program designed by oncologists, for oncology practices,” said Dr. Penley, Chair of the Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Board of Directors. “The program exists solely to promote quality, with no hidden agenda. It is not a quality program that has been developed by a third-party payer, which could have inherent bias.”

The QOPI Certification Program provides performance measures and standards applicable to multiple aspects of a patient’s care. If a patient is prescribed oral chemotherapy, for example, certification requires the monitoring of toxicities the patient may be experiencing and the monitoring of treatment regimen adherence. These guidelines ensure patient access to the medication, as well as a comprehensive understanding of the treatment plan and the overall ramifications of treatment compliance. The outlined scenario also requires input from all team members on the physician treatment plan, including physicians, nurses, financial advisors, pharmacologists, and social workers.

The measures and practices applied as part of QOPI Certification are the true benefit of the program, according to Dr. Makhoul. “It’s not about the certificate,” he said. “It’s about the measures that are geared toward a healthy practice focusing on patient-centered care.”

The next qualifying QOPI round opens in September 2015, and all practices that achieve a threshold quality score can then apply for certification after the round closes in November. Practices can learn more about the application process at Certification is open to U.S. and U.S.-territory practices. Practices are encouraged to apply as a whole entity, as long as they demonstrate that all of their office sites are functionally integrated. ■

Originally printed in ASCO Daily News. © American Society of Clinical Oncology. “ ASCO QOPI® Certification Program Benefits Practices, Patients.” All rights reserved.