By Christina Bennett, MS
Tennessee Oncology, New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, and West Cancer Center have joined forces to form a new company, OneOncology. Backed by more than $200 million from investor General Atlantic, OneOncology officially launched on Tuesday, September 12, and will bring together more than 225 community oncologists from more than 60 national sites of care. The joint venture comes at a time when community oncologists are facing more challenges than ever to keep practice doors open and stay competitive in the current healthcare environment.
“The pace of innovation in drug therapy, in medical technology, and in practice approaches is very challenging for even the largest centers to keep up with,” said Tracy Bahl, President and Chief Executive Officer at OneOncology. Among the myriad of challenges are keeping up with the pace of regulation and the ability to access capital to advance and expand the continuum of cancer care.
The need to confront those challenges was, in part, a driver of the creation of OneOncology.
“Approximately 30 percent of community oncology practices in the country have gone out of business in the last five years due to the pressures faced,” said Jeffrey Patton, MD, President and CEO of Tennessee Oncology. Dr. Patton is also president of physician services at OneOncology. “We need a solution to help keep the choice and the option for community oncology to be viable in the market place,” he said.
Lee Schwartzberg, MD, a member of the OneOncology board of directors and executive director of West Cancer Center, said that the transition to value-based care requires a new infrastructure that even experienced practices need. “In order to make this change to value-based care, we need to partner, and we believe that OneOncology is a perfect vehicle to enhance this transformation,” he said.
Dr. Patton echoed a similar view, “Even at a practice with the size and scale of Tennessee Oncology, we’re convinced that to compete and survive in the value-based world, we need larger scale, more expertise, and better technologies to survive long-term as we move toward value-based care.”
Peter Ellis, MD, Deputy Director of Clinical Services and Associate Chief Medical Officer at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, told OBR he is not surprised by the formation of OneOncology. In fact, he likened it to the formation of American Oncology Resources, Inc., (now U.S. Oncology) back in the 1990s.
It makes sense, Dr. Ellis said, given that oncology reimbursement continues to be challenging and Medicare and other payers are being aggressive in their reductions in reimbursement. “In order to stay efficient and be able to continue to provide the best quality care for patients, size and economics matter.” He added, “If [the three practices] didn’t bind together, they’d be vulnerable to the whims of reimbursement.”
Representatives from OneOncology assert that the company size will leverage greater purchasing power and help reduce costs. Access to capital will help practices expand to meet the needs of their communities. The rural cancer care setting is one example of how OneOncology may improve the delivery of care. In rural settings, meaningful services are not necessarily provided in the community, resulting in patients travelling long distances for radiation or chemotherapy, which is not only an inconvenience but also impacts adherence, and in turn, survival rates.
Bahl explained that before, a practice might have had to dip into its own pockets or find some other source of capital, and now with OneOncology, “we can identify and address that need, with the capital that OneOncology has available.”
OneOncology will also offer expertise for providers. “We’ll build a broader team with each one of our [founding] partners,” said Robin Shah, Chief Development and Marketing Officer at OneOncology. Providers will also have access to experts in technology, finance, operations, managed care, and all the other services that surround the ability to operate an oncology practice.
Dr. Patton explained that the advantage of having a network of practices across the country is access to best practices, and by having a common IT platform (provided by Flatiron), providers will be able to share and implement those best practices.
In the long-term, the vision of OneOncology is to “partner progressively” with other leading community oncology practices across the country.