Formed in 1991, the Rocky Mountain Oncology Society (RMOS), a Chapter Member of the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) and State Affiliate of ASCO, serves as the voice for Colorado’s multidisciplinary cancer care teams and the patients they serve.
Representing the common interests of oncologists, hematologists, and advanced practice providers (APPs) from across the state. RMOS strives to keep its members ahead of the ever-shifting health-care landscape by providing educational and networking opportunities and working to affect legislation and public policy related to cancer care access in the state.
The Society’s membership comprises nearly 200 multidisciplinary oncology providers in Colorado. The ASCO Post spoke to three of the organization’s members—Scott A. Kono, DO, MS, President-Elect and Area Specialty Chief, Medical Oncology at Kaiser Permanente; Brianna Hoffner, MSN, ANP-BC, AOCNP, Membership Liaison and lead APP at the University of Colorado; and Nicole Dreabit, about the opportunities and challenges facing their society.
RMOS BOARD OF DIRECTORS
President W. Thomas Purcell, MD, MBA University of Colorado Hospital
President-Elect Scott A. Kono, MD Kaiser Permanente Colorado
Secretary/ Treasurer Deborah Cook, MD Comprehensive Cancer Center
Immediate Past President Allen L. Cohn, MD Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers
Member-at-Large Alex Menter, MD Kaiser Permanente Oncology/ Hematology
Member-at-Large Wells A. Messersmith, MD University of Colorado Cancer Center
Member-at-Large Victor Villalobos, MD, PhD University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus
What are some of the benefits of being an ASCO State Affiliate?
Dr. Kono: Everyone who practices oncology benefits from ASCO, whether it’s on a day-to-day basis or an organizational basis through meetings, educational symposia, and advocacy. There are multiple levels to ASCO, and we’re so tightly paired with its ideals that we have a perfect symbiotic relationship.
“There are multiple levels to ASCO, and we’re so tightly paired with its ideals that we have a perfect symbiotic relationship.”— Scott A. Kono, DO, MS
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Ms. Hoffner: Being a part of a state affiliate network gives RMOS a voice with regard to advocacy, policy, and reimbursement issues. I think it’s good for Colorado to have access to certain ASCO resources and to the specific programs that are tailored to the state affiliates. It allows the states to have a voice in the grander scheme of oncology care.
Improving Quality of Care
How does being part of a society like yours help improve the quality of care you deliver?
Ms. Hoffner: It provides a different opportunity to network, which I think leads to better care for patients. RMOS hosts a number of small educational meetings throughout the year, in addition to our larger annual state conference, which offers us a nice opportunity to network and get to know our colleagues. For example, a lot of patients go back and forth between Kaiser Permanente and the University of Colorado for clinical trials, and I never get to meet the Kaiser Permanente team that takes care of them. But at this past RMOS Annual Conference, I got to meet some of the people from Kaiser Permanente I’d been talking to on the phone for a year.
Ms. Dreabit: From a management standpoint, I think the Society improves care through the education it provides. RMOS has its Annual Conference every September, in addition to five educational dinner symposia spread throughout the year. At these symposia, attendees do a little bit of networking and listen to one speaker who is usually clinically focused. It’s sort of an open-ended, informal way to learn, and just this year we started offering continuing education credit for each of the dinner symposia.
The whole point is to be able to provide an outlet for oncology care team providers and to increase the involvement of APPs—to give them an avenue for learning about the newest clinical advances and collaborate with colleagues about their shared challenges and successes, so they can provide the best possible care for their patients. Earlier this year, we launched a completely redesigned, mobile-friendly website, with a lot of robust resources to address our members’ changing needs.
How do the members of RMOS communicate with one other, and how does your group plan to increase membership?
Dr. Kono: Our oncology community in the Denver metro area is pretty tight-knit, but there is always room to improve avenues of communication. At Kaiser Permanente, we have 20 medical oncologists and 9 radiation oncologists who have frequent meetings and see each other quite often. The difficulty all medical groups are faced with is in meeting other oncology providers outside of one’s own medical group—RMOS provides this platform through educational symposia. Additionally, we as a Society, recognize that cancer care delivery is a team effort and encourage involvement of all members of the cancer care team, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, RNs, and social workers. We have had outstanding talks from radiation oncologists and palliative care doctors, and so we really do encourage multispecialty membership, as well. Finally, in looking to the future, we host a Professional Development Workshop targeted at medical students and residents who want to learn more about a career in oncology.
From a management standpoint, I think the Rocky Mountain Oncology Society improves care through the education it provides.”— Nicole Dreabit
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One of our areas of focus in the next couple of years will be a grassroots-level effort to increase involvement in RMOS among all practitioners in the various specialties involved in cancer care.
What are some of the issues you’re facing that are specific to Colorado?
Dr. Kono: That’s a good question. I suppose it’s hard to tell what’s unique to our state, because every state is a bit siloed in how they work and in what experiences with legislation they are facing; we all face unique challenges with the hospitals and employer groups, with regard to reimbursement and changes in Medicare.
In Colorado, the Right-to-Try Act, step therapy laws, End of Life Options Act, and legalization of marijuana are all relatively new. The RMOS is a good forum to help educate a lot of the practitioners within the community on some of these newer developments. For instance, this past year we had a great presentation at one of our meetings from Dr. James Willett, a palliative care doctor, explaining the End of Life Options Act. It was relatively new at the time, and it was an extremely well-received lecture.
I think that’s one of the duties of an organization like this. In real time, you can take topics that are very important to the practicing provider and offer educational opportunities.
Ms. Hoffner: Another big challenge is that our state is geographically spread out. We have a few densely populated areas, but otherwise, people are in very small towns where they don’t have access to appropriate cancer care. We often have patients who would be a wonderful fit for a clinical trial, but they live 7 hours away in a mountain town. So it can be really challenging to figure out how you’re going to treat some of these patients.
“RMOS hosts a number of small educational meetings throughout the year, in addition to our larger annual state conference, which offers us a nice opportunity to network and get to know our colleagues.”— Brianna Hoffner, MSN, ANP-BC, AOCNP
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This year, you launched the RMOS Allied Health Professional Award, an awards program for your APPs that was incredibly successful. Can you tell me about that program and the impact it had?
Ms. Hoffner: The number of APPs in oncology is growing tremendously, and the field is changing so quickly that staying up-to-date on education is a real challenge.
Funding models for continuing education vary by clinic, and funding for APP education is different from that of physicians and nurses. Our team in medical oncology gets $2,000 annually, and the cost of registration for a lot of oncology meetings is exorbitant. So this is not enough money to attend even one meeting per year, much less more than one. We have 18 APPs on the team in medical oncology. They’re often e-mailing and calling, saying, “I don’t have any education money left, but I really want to attend this conference. Do you have any thoughts on how I can do it?”
It’s a very interesting demographic because we have a lot of responsibility and a lot to know, but not a lot of funding in that regard. And so we came up with the RMOS Allied Health Professional Award. The award provides a $2,000 grant to APPs to augment their education, to be used in whatever way they thought would be best.
Nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and pharmacists were all eligible for this award. Although we originally slated for five winners, we received nine strong submissions and were excited to have the ability to fund them all. The people who won these grants now have the ability to go to conferences that were not previously within their budget. Now I have people coming to me asking when they can apply for the grant again. After seeing how successful it was, we’ve talked about maybe doing it twice a year and increasing the dollar amount.
Ms. Dreabit: The model for this program was successful in Colorado and Iowa state societies, and we will be instituting it in more states in the future.
Legislation and Public Policy
How are you involved in affecting legislation and public policy related to cancer care in your state? Does pairing with ASCO play a big role in accomplishing that?
Dr. Kono: ASCO carries a lot of weight in Washington, DC, and we recognize that as a Society; the role ASCO plays in advocacy is huge. It’s the one organization that gives oncologists a unity and power that they might not otherwise have on an individual level.
At Kaiser Permanente, we use quite a few of the ASCO guidelines, consensus statements, and Choosing Wisely campaign, to provide high-quality, data-driven cancer care. We recognize these resources as a high priority within our organization. So there are many things that ASCO does that help us on an institutional basis. ■
DISCLOSURE: Dr. Kono, Ms. Hoffner and Ms. Dreabit reported no conflicts of interest.