Report Defines Need for Patients' Voice in American Healthcare Reform

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Cancer survivor describes how hospitals can improve quality of care based on individual needs of patients.

Cancer Survivor and patient advocate Lynette Bisconti and Cancer Treatment Centers of America president and CEO Steve Bonner discuss recommendation for an individual-centered health system during a Center for Health Transformation conference.

Unfortunately, our current system has trained us to follow, not to lead.

Quality healthcare must reinsert consumers as the primary decision makers for their healthcare, says a report published by the Center for Health Transformation (CHT). "The 21st Century Intelligent Health System: An Individual-Centered Approach" describes the necessary steps to reform our healthcare system to meet the individual needs of patients. The paper provides patient statements and examples of how the needs of patients and family members are being met, and suggests that higher quality care can be provided at a much lower price if the consumer disciplines the industry.

"As a patient, I understand all too well what it is like to be left out of the discussion," said Lynette Bisconti, a patient advocate and cancer survivor. Bisconti was diagnosed with breast cancer three weeks after discovering she was pregnant.

"To beat cancer, save my baby and have a quality of life on par with what I had before cancer, I knew I needed to be actively involved in decisions about my medical care," Bisconti said. "These were my life and health goals - individual to me - and I needed my care team to understand what I valued most, to listen to me and respect my decisions about my cancer treatment."

The CHT paper makes a compelling case for healthcare reform that creates a system built around individual needs.

"The overriding difference from every other high quality reasonable cost industry and healthcare is that we have removed the consumer and what they value from decision-making," said Steve Bonner, president and CEO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America and co-chair of the CHT working group that developed the report.

"The Central point of our paper is that our healthcare system must reengage the consumer and include what they value in the process," Bonner said. "Then as providers of their care, we must figure out what the consumer is willing to pay for and then we must all compete to deliver the best products and services at the most attractive prices."

Bisconti sought a total of eight medical opinions. In each of the first six she felt she was being treated like a protocol, not as an individual. "Protocol said terminate the pregnancy, try to save the mother and call it a day," said Bisconti. "The clinical cookbook never seemed to change.

"My journey was completely transformed when I found a hospital that embraced my individual needs," Bisconti continued. "I had surgery and chemotherapy while pregnant and delivered a healthy baby boy. Today I remain free of disease and my son is a happy, healthy, wonderful little boy who lights up my world."

Bisconti believes the patient as a full partner in healthcare decision-making has been a missing element in the decades-long healthcare reform debate.

"Patients can make decisions for themselves. We want to make decisions for ourselves," said Bisconti. "Unfortunately, our current system has trained us to follow, not to lead."    

Cancer Treatment Centers of America is a national network of hospitals providing a comprehensive, fully integrative approach to cancer treatment. CTCA serves patients with advanced cancer from all 50 states at facilities located in suburban Chicago, Tulsa, Philadelphia and suburban Phoenix. For more information about Cancer Treatment Centers of America, go to cancercenter.com.

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