Q&A with Dr. David Beyer, president and incoming chair of ASTRO

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | September 27, 2016
From the September 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

HCB News: As chair, what kind of initiatives will you move forward?
I happen to be sitting on ASTRO’s board right at the moment when I think there is a radical change in how health care is delivered in this country. We call it payment reform and we’re involved in innovations in how we provide care, so we can take care of both the patient and payor. A lot of the programs we’re presenting this year are discussing how we integrate ourselves into the overall process and how we go about breaking down barriers between radiation oncologists and other specialists that also take care of the patient. How can we work together to keep the patient healthy and out of the hospital?

HCB News: Does ASTRO lobby for health care?
Yes. ASTRO fights for several issues to help physicians and researchers do the best job we can for people with cancer. The health care system and the way we get health care are rapidly changing. ASTRO is a part of that process. We meet with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Congress, various committee members and other policymakers, all to help guide decisions that we think are beneficial for our patients. Once a year, we have Advocacy Day, where more than 100 members volunteer to give up two days at their practice to sit down with members of Congress and explain what the issues are.

This year our focus was on sustained cancer funding to improve cancer care. When you get funds as a one-off without a sustained arc year over year, it’s very hard to build a cancer program. There are other important issues, too. Funding for graduate medical education. Stability in the physician payment process — because the changing fee schedules that CMS issues each year can be very disruptive for practicing physicians. I practice in a small market, and I don’t have the resources to handle substantial changes year after year. The whole health care realm is in upheaval, and we want to know what we can count on so we can plan staffing, equipment updates and more.

HCB News: What’s new for this year’s annual meeting?
Thematically, we’re talking about enhancing value and improving outcomes. Our presidential symposium, for example, focuses on prostate cancer issues such as how and when different treatment approaches are appropriate. It’s important to define value and deliver it to the various stakeholders in the room, including the patient. It’s important to give some guidance so we can go home and do a better job.

Kathleen Sebelius, who was Secretary of Health and Human Services, will be one of our keynotes and will talk about health policy and defining value. Another keynote speaker, Jason Ragogna, is a safety executive for Delta Airlines. He will talk about safety and quality. Our third keynote, Tom Lynch, is CEO of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, and he offers a lot of experience in personalized medicine.

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