The life-threatening nature of cancer and the complexity of cancer treatment options, each with its own set of potential risks and benefits, make it difficult for people with cancer to make decisions about their care. In addition, cancer care usually involves multiple specialties, impeding the coordination of care and development of comprehensive treatment plans. A cancer treatment plan can provide a roadmap to help patients navigate their uncertain path. A treatment plan is a written document that informs everyone—the patient, his or her family, and other treating physicians—about the path of care and who is responsible for each portion of that care. However, most providers lack the tools, time, and resources needed to efficiently and effectively prepare such plans with their patients.
With support from the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, the IOM’s National Cancer Policy Forum held a workshop February 28-March 1, 2011, to discuss ways to create a more coordinated, patient-centered cancer treatment planning process. Speakers and participants representing patients, providers, nonprofits, and other groups identified a number of obstacles to achieving patient-centered care planning in practice, including poor communication between patients and providers, and a lack of adequate reimbursement for the time needed to develop, discuss, and document a treatment plan. Workshop participants also suggested a variety of approaches for addressing these challenges. This document summarizes the workshop.