What is quality care? Essentially, it means getting the right treatment for your breast cancer provided in the best, most compassionate way. More specifically, according to the Institute of Medicine, it’s defined as “appropriate services provided in a technically competent manner, with good communication, shared decision-making and cultural sensitivity.”
One of the best ways to ensure you'll get good medical care is to be informed. Learn about breast cancer, your specific diagnosis and your treatment options so you can ask your health care providers the right questions and share in the decision-making process. It’s also important to understand what makes up good care. In health care research, many methods are used to measure the quality of care people receive from a provider or medical center. Three of the more common methods are discussed below.
A quality hospital or medical center should have:
Hospitals and medical offices that have these elements are set up to offer good care. But having the necessary facilities and supplies does not always ensure quality care. The types of treatment offered and how well people do after care are often more important measures.The Joint Commission conducts site visits and audits of medical centers and gives each center a rating based on performance. To find a hospital that meets safety and quality standards, visit their website or call (630) 792-5800.
This measure looks at the quality of care given by health care providers and hospitals. Providers, in addition to giving good basic care, should follow current guidelines for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.
Although the exact treatment for breast cancer varies from person to person, treatment guidelines help ensure quality care. These guidelines are based on the latest research and the consensus of experts. The National Comprehensive Care Network (NCCN) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are two respected organizations that regularly update and post their guidelines online.
Ask your health care providers what treatment guidelines they use as the basis of their practice. Since there is often a time lag between the latest research and updates of guidelines, most medical oncologists prefer to base their treatment on the latest research that ultimately drives these guidelines.
Ideally, it would be good to know how well people do when treated by different health care providers and hospitals. Information such as rates of complications (like infection) after surgery, survival after breast cancer treatment and quality of life after treatment would be helpful to know. This information, however, is rarely available. It is also difficult to compare these types of data because the people treated at one hospital may be different from those treated at another hospital.
Once you find a health care provider, he or she does not have to be your only source of information. Breast cancer is complex. It’s a good idea for everyone diagnosed with breast cancer to consider getting a second opinion. Seeing a second provider from a different hospital or group practice serves many purposes. It can:
Your provider should be comfortable with and, in fact, encourage you to get a second opinion. However, before getting a second opinion, it’s best to check with your insurance to see if there are any limits. Some policies may only cover second opinions from providers in their own network.
In 2013, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a set of recommendations (below) on improving cancer care in the U.S. The report Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis recommends improvements to fix shortcomings that add cost and burden to cancer care. Susan G. Komen® was one of 13 organizations sponsoring this study.
The report identified key ways to improve quality of care:
Read the full report.
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