• This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

5 Emerging Trends in Community Oncology

May 20, 2022

In recent years, new oncology trends have developed that can transform the way the oncology market functions. From 2015 to 2050, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the cancer incidence rate will increase by 49 percent. As a result, community oncology programs will face additional pressure to treat patients. Clinics and hospitals need to understand ongoing trends in oncology and learn new ways to deal with them to navigate changing market situations.

The Top Trends in Oncology

The future of oncology will be shaped by precision medicine and better technology. Gene therapy, machine learning, and reimbursement changes will modify how community oncology programs function. In addition, many oncology centers will need to adopt new measures to manage patients who expect to be treated as consumers.

1. The Advent of Precision Medicine

One of the first significant trends in advanced oncology programs is precision medicine. Instead of merely treating cancer with the same approach, treatments are now available that target different target types of cancers. When it comes to tumor-agnostic indications, Keytruda was approved back in 2017. Meanwhile, Rozlytrek was also approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a commonly expressed biomarker.

Because scientists better understand carcinogenesis, they can use next-generation sequencing (NGS) to target specific molecules. Already, NGS is serving as the starting point for oncology care instead of the last resort. Pre-treatment testing will be increasingly used to search for specific biomarkers so that new tumor-agnostic treatments can be used. While these treatments are currently too expensive and difficult to interpret for some oncology centers, machine learning and new software programs will eventually make these practices easier to adopt.

2. Changes to Reimbursement for Oncology Care

Reimbursement changes are another trend in oncology that treatment centers need to deal with. Thanks to the pandemic, cancer screenings declined. At the same time, chemotherapy and radiation treatments continued. Because of this, oncology programs managed to bring in revenue for medical centers that faced unstable balance sheets.

Unfortunately, the 340B drug program reduced some payments by 50 percent in recent years. There have also been changes to reimbursement for specific drugs. Some commercial health plans have pushed to incorporate infusion services in non-hospital settings to save money. As a result, value-based contracts have declined in recent years. In their place, many organizations are using an accountable care organization (ACO) model, an oncology care model (OCM), or a shared-savings model. Some oncology departments are trying to limit emergency department admissions, unnecessary imaging, and admissions to reduce costs.

3. Telehealth and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Oncology Market

The pandemic has made telehealth a normal part of the healthcare marketplace, which has caused some community oncology programs to be more efficient. At the same time, telehealth limits the kind of patients who can get care. Rural and low-income patients may struggle to access telehealth services when they need them.

AI and machine learning are also revolutionizing the future of oncology. These programs will make it cheaper and easier to adopt precision medicine and gene therapy techniques. AI can support clinical efficiency and care in a variety of different ways. Other than improving diagnostic tools, AI can also predict which patients are the most likely to experience complications.

4. Consumers Versus Patients

Many patients went to their local hospital when they needed care in the past. They used a traditional referral to see a different doctor when they required additional treatments. Today’s patients are starting to treat oncology treatments like consumer products, among other oncology trends. They are using healthcare information to inform their purchasing decisions.

Many patients are researching their medical providers before their appointments. Because patients treat cancer care like a shopping trip, medical practices must adjust. These self-directed patients must be marketed like other consumers. For example, adding physician profiles and videos to a hospital’s website can help to attract these patients.

5. Cell and Gene Therapy Approvals

The oncology market is getting reshaped by the advent of cell and gene therapy. By 2025, the FDA is expected to approve 20 cell and gene therapies. An additional 300 therapies are in development right now. The FDA has approved two different CAR-T therapies for B-cell lymphoma in recent years.

Gene therapy has already been used to treat beta-thalassemia and other hematological conditions. In advanced oncology programs, gene therapy trials are currently looking at specialized treatments for melanoma, cervical, and bladder tumors. Instead of merely managing symptoms, these new therapies can cure chronic diseases completely.

Navigating the Future of Oncology

From precision medicine to telehealth, there are a lot of oncology trends that are impacting the industry. As more people need advanced oncology services in the future, these trends will become increasingly important. Through new practices and a consumer-centric focus, clinics and hospitals can ensure better outcomes for their patients and a more substantial revenue stream.