Now that barriers to lung cancer biomarker testing are understood, how are they being addressed? Experts Dr. Heather Wakelee and Dr. Leigh Boehmer discuss positive procedural changes that are assisting multidisciplinary teams to reduce time to testing and to overcome financial barriers to care.
Dr. Nicole Rochester:
We’ve talked a lot about the barriers, which are many, what’s on the horizon or what positive trends have you all seen, and specifically what are the opportunities, what are some things that are either happening or that are being explored with regard to removing some of these barriers or all of the barriers that each of you have talked about? I’ll start with you, Dr. Wakelee, give us some hope.
Dr. Heather Wakelee:
All right. Great. Well, I think there is reason to have hope. Absolutely. There always is reason to have hope. And so many organizations, including ISLC, including ACCC, including NCC…I mean, you could name any organization that’s involved in cancer care and education, is really focusing on this issue of making sure that every oncologist knows the importance of doing biomarker testing for patients with non-small cell lung cancer, that we are trying to expand that not just to the oncologist, but also to the folks making the diagnosis, so they can be aware as well. Patient advocacy groups are very engaged in this as well, making sure that when someone is newly diagnosed, if they reach out to an advocacy group, one of the messages they hear is, have you asked about testing what’s happening with the tumor testing?
The more people who are aware that’s a standard of care in treating lung cancer, the more that’s going to happen, and then continuing to explore those financial barriers, and as more agents are FDA-approved, where that becomes a preferred first sign option, but you only know that if the testing’s happened, that leads to campaigning to make sure that the testing is being covered as well, you know, when you can argue, this patient isn’t getting the FDA-approved best care for their cancer because that testing wasn’t done, that’s a really powerful statement. And I think that’s what we’re seeing change happening.
Dr. Nicole Rochester:
That is incredible, thank you. Thank you so much. I can smile again.
Dr. Nicole Rochester:
What about you, Dr. Boehmer? I know you’re getting…your organization is doing a lot of work in this area, so tell us about some of the advances, some of the improvements and tackling some of these barriers that both of you have elucidated today.
Dr. Leigh Boehmer:
So Dr. Wakelee, thank you for all of those hope-inducing concepts and methodologies, because I honestly believe that so many of us learn best today by seeing someone like me doing X, Y, Z, so I know I can do it as well. So I think it’s about documentation of justification of testing for prior authorization claims. I think it’s about working together with the multidisciplinary team, pharmacist, advanced practitioners, oncology-certified nurses to help manage that back and forth with testing and external pathology and laboratory companies, to make sure that results show up in the right spot in the electronic health record so that they can be interpreted, shared with patients, communicated and contextualized in real time. I think it’s about greater incorporation as we’ve seen across so many of our programs of the tenets of shared clinical decision-making, and how to have a meaningful conversation with a patient and/or their caregivers about testing and its role on treatment and drug selection, and outcomes, and progression-free survival. And there are a lot of programs out there that are doing bits of this or different points along that continuum.
ACCC for example, building on the research I shared before, recognizes that a lot of community programs don’t have kind of operational best practices for how to incorporate biomarker testing into a patient’s journey, and so for lung, and also, for example, for breast cancer, we’re working on creating care pathways which will help multidisciplinary clinician teams integrate discussions of biomarker testing and its impact at various critical time points along a patient’s diagnosis to treatment, to survivorship or end-of-life care. And those are just examples of us not being overly duplicative, but putting all the resources in one place, talking about timing, talking about when and how to have meaningful conversations, and then doing it with health-literate, vetted resources and through a lens of equity and shared decision-making, because you look like me, you had success with it. I’m going to do it for my at-risk patients as well, because one, it’s the right thing to do. And two, you taught me how to do it, and three, you told me what success looks like so I can measure myself against you, and that’s a successful model for scalability.