There are two classifications of oncology practices: community oncology and institutional or hospital-based oncology. Both provide oncology care in an outpatient setting, have the same types of training, utilize the same drugs, have access to the latest research and see similar patients. However, in practice, the benefit of community oncology centers is increasingly understood as a conduit to provide efficient, patient-centered oncology care at lower costs to patients, health plans, and community physicians.
Independent community oncologists are in private practice. They offer highly personalized and immediate care, and work in close collaboration with regional experts and colleagues, allowing the availability of second opinions in the case of a rare or complicated diagnosis. They are on the medical staff of local hospitals and their practices have the staff and resources to provide the needed treatments, in a personal, local and convenient setting. The majority of community oncologists' time and efforts are spent in direct patient care.
Hospital-based medical oncologists work for a local health system, hospital or an academic institution, and most provide oncology care on an outpatient basis, similar to the community oncologists. That being said, hospital-based physicians routinely have significant non-clinical obligations in administration, research and teaching, and therefore may spend less time with patients, making it more difficult for patients to receive regular, consistent communication from them.
The primary difference between care in the independent community setting and care in the hospital setting is related to cost. Because hospital-based oncologists bill through the hospital’s contracts, the costs to your health plan through insurance claims—and to you through increased co-pay—can be higher. Recent studies show the cost for receiving the same drug and treatment, through the same process, may possibly be two to three times more expensive when obtained from a hospital outpatient-based oncologist as compared to an independent community oncologist.
The issue of cost in cancer care is not one to be taken lightly. Cancer is unfortunately an expensive disease to treat. The drugs can be very costly, as are imaging studies, lab tests and many other procedures. However, the biggest single determinant of the cost of your care, which is in your control, is your choice of oncologist - specifically, whether or not he functions as a community oncologist or as part of a hospital system or institution.
Learn more in the:
Site of Care Cost Analysis White Paper