Chicago Breast Cancer Quality Consortium

Guest post from LaToya L. Stewart, MPH, Manager of Community Health Programs at Susan G. Komen for the Cure

It was five years ago that a startling statistic was revealed – in Metropolitan Chicago, an African American woman’s chance of dying from breast cancer was 62 percent higher than her white counterpart.  It was then that hundreds of community leaders and activists devised a plan to tackle and eliminate this disheartening disparity.  With a $1 million grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure (and support that has since grown to $2.1 million), the Chicago Breast Cancer Quality Consortium was launched to address a critical factor to health care that has been overlooked for too long – QUALITY.  On Nov. 11, the umbrella organization of the consortium, the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force, convened for the fifth year to share their successes since embarking upon this mission.  Anne Marie Murphy, executive director of the Task Force shared, “Armed with a dedicated board and staff, innovative ideas and unparalleled enthusiasm from a diverse group of partners within and outside the health care arena, we have moved steadily toward our mission.”

Each step taken has been WITH and FOR the community.  The Nov. 11 gathering was no different.  More than 150 nurses, navigators, physicians, community activists and community partners gathered at Advocate Christ Hospital to discuss their journey toward health equity.  Dr. Terry Mason, chief medical officer of the Cook County Health & Hospital Systems was the morning’s opening keynote speaker.  He challenged the audience to consider the role of historical social constructs in the creation of health disparities in our country.  With that framework, he offered a simple but tall order: develop strategies to eliminate disparities that not only address genetic factors but also include policies necessary to affect health outcomes in our country.

Murphy reported findings from an evaluation of the quality of screening and treatment at 53 mammography clinics and hospitals representing 46 percent of hospitals providing mammography services in the area and 42 percent providing cancer treatment to at least five breast cancer patients per year.  While the majority of the participating hospitals were able to demonstrate that they are meeting treatment standards based on national guidelines, there are a few that aren’t able to demonstrate meeting the standards of care.  Those standards of care are to provide treatment quickly and provide the appropriate treatment protocol.

The results for mammography were vastly different, with the majority of the participating hospitals and clinics saying they could not demonstrate that they are meeting the quality standards in mammography.  Only 30 percent of the hospitals could demonstrate that they were finding cancers when they are very small.  More than 60 percent couldn’t demonstrate that abnormal screenings were followed up with critical diagnostic imaging.  There are limitations to the data and more analysis is needed, but the numbers were sobering.

After lunch, Julie Hamos, Director, Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, made a monumental announcement.  Beginning in January 2012, Medicaid reimbursement rates for screening will increase across the state of Illinois if providers participate in the quality improvement initiative.  Ms. Hamos told the group that this increased Medicaid reimbursement is an effort to get providers to focus on quality.  With 1,400 screening providers in the state, it is also a significant opportunity for growth and improvement in breast health care for Illinois.

As the day ended, I sat in on a session called You Have Cancer, Please Hold.  This focused on key communication points with patients from screening to diagnosis, with real-world suggestions on how to improve communication with patients.

What an amazing event!  I’ve had the privilege of serving as Komen’s program officer for this initiative since 2009.  This update was truly a reminder of the important work that is being done to save lives one clinic at a time…and now an entire state!

Related articles:
State Takes Major Steps Towards Improving Mammography Quality While Increasing Medicaid Mammography Reimbursement

About the author

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Susan G. Komen has written 282 articles for Susan G. Komen® | Blog

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.

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