Conference Coverage

Patient-reported outcomes are here to stay



WASHINGTON – The federal official who helps oversee Medicare’s use of quality measures predicted a continued emphasis on patient-reported outcomes in the assessments of physician performance.

Reena Duseja, MD, chief medical officer for quality measurement at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said she has seen “more emphasis” in her 2 years with the agency in collecting outcome measures, including ones reported by patients. In doing this, CMS officials are also looking to identify the core elements that willl be part of patient-reported outcomes (PROs).

“We really have to get better at standardization,” Dr. Duseja said during a policy summit sponsored by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). “There is room for improvement there. We’re continuing to think of ways that we can support that.”

She also said the CMS is working, in general, to try to give physicians feedback sooner on how they are faring on measurements.

“The commitment of our agency is trying to think about how we collect data in a way that shortens the cycle of measure development” and speeds the delivery of this data back to providers, Dr. Duseja said.

Her fellow panelists discussed the difficulties in designing PRO measures, including the need to account for special challenges for patients living in or near poverty. Avoiding emergency department visits and hospitalizations, for example, may be a key priority for people who are paid hourly wages, said Kashyap Patel, MD, managing partner of Carolina Blood and Cancer Care in Rock Hill, S.C. These patients will not only face the inconvenience and cost of a hospital stay, but will also lose wages from missed work. He urged policymakers to take these factors into consideration in designing quality measures, and not to forget that “there is a human being behind this.”

Ronald S. Walters, MD, associate head of the Institute for Cancer Care Innovation at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and chair of NCCN’s board of directors, cautioned against continued attempts to devise a “Nirvana” list of outcome measures that can be universally applied. Instead, payers may be better off with a “mix and match” approach. Certain measures may be used across the board, such as pain and quality of life metrics, while other measures could be more tailored.

Dr. Ronald S. Walters, associate head of the Institute for Cancer Care Innovation at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center,

Dr. Ronald S. Walters

Dr. Walters also called out a missed opportunity to tie PROs to Medicare payment in the area of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy.

In 2018, the CMS indicated it was considering the use of PROs in connection with CAR T-cell payment. The CMS asked its Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee (MEDCAC) to consider the role of PROs in connection with payment for CAR T-cell therapy. At an August 2018 meeting, MEDCAC panelists generally expressed confidence in PROs in a series of votes about the use of this approach to quality measurement in cancer trials.

But drugmakers and physician groups raised strong objections at the MEDCAC meeting. In its national coverage decision on CAR T, issued in August 2019, the CMS said it had received many comments on PROs “ranging from support of their collection to recommendations for additional assessment tools to request to remove PRO requirements.” The CMS opted at this time to encourage participation in the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplantation Research (CIBMTR) database “that currently collects health outcomes (and aims to collect patient reported outcomes in the future) on patients who have received CAR T-cell treatments.”

For Dr. Walters, this setback for the use of PROs in CAR T therapy payment is telling, as the treatment is known to produce serious side effects and is administered in well-controlled circumstances.

“If you can’t organize collecting patient-reported outcomes after CAR T cell, that kind of tells you the state of where we are on collecting them on everybody,” Dr. Walters said.

Next Article: