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Transforming Cancer Care Delivery and Patient Experiences Through Technology With David Penberthy, MD, MBA

At the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago, Dr. David Penberthy, President of the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC), sat down with Oncology Data Advisor to discuss his President's Theme for ACCC this year, which involves utilizing technology to improve the delivery of cancer care in order to optimize patient experiences.

This podcast episode was recorded live at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago by Oncology Data Advisor and ConveyMed. 

Oncology Data Advisor: Welcome to Oncology Data Advisor, I'm Keira Smith. Today I'm here at the ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago, speaking with David Penberthy of the Association of Community Cancer Centers. Thank you for joining us. Would you like to tell us a little bit about what you do there?

David Penberthy, MD, MBA: Sure, thank you for having me. I'm really excited to be here at ASCO 2022. My name is David Penberthy. I'm a radiation oncologist in practice in the southern part of Virginia. I've been in practice there for nearly 20 years. This year, I am President of the Association of Community Cancer Centers. It's a one-year term from 2022 to 2023.

Oncology Data Advisor: Great, thank you. So, what do you think is some of the most interesting research that is being presented here at ASCO, and how does it tie into the President's Theme for ACCC?

Dr. Penberthy: One of the beauties about being president is we get to choose a theme for the year, and so much is happening in oncology. It's a really exciting time to be part of it. We're seeing successes that we have not seen before. As I walk around the displays and walk around the exhibit hall, I see all sorts of activity towards immunotherapy and immune oncology, which have really transformed my practice. Seeing all the information that's being conveyed, it's really kind of gratifying to see that everybody is like-minded. Everybody is working hard to deliver these state-of-the-art treatments to people.

I'll give you a couple of examples. I'm seeing people with stage IV lung cancer and stage IV melanoma in my clinic who are surviving, when just a few years ago, they had very limited options. Like I said, it's a really gratifying time to be in oncology. Having said that, ASCO is a perfect example of how the amount of information that's coming forward is just tremendous. I read a lot, but it's really difficult to keep up with the latest and greatest for every disease site. I'm a general radiation oncologist, and I really need to be able to use the best techniques for every person that I see.

So how do we do that? Well, with the President's Theme for this year, what I want to do is leverage technology to transform cancer care delivery and enhance the patient experience. We have found that there are some clinical decision support software systems that help match patients to clinical trials, for instance, or help us determine what the most optimal treatment is for everybody that comes through the clinic. That's critical so that everybody gets the right treatment at the right time, and they can do that in their community.

Organizations like ACCC really help facilitate effective care in the community, and ACCC is kind of the go-to organization for figuring out methods of delivering the most effective care in the community. One word about ACCC: the membership of ACCC cares for approximately two-thirds of the oncology care in America. It has such a wealth and a breadth of experience in its membership that challenges that my practice faces oftentimes have been solved by another practice somewhere else in America. With the collective mind, so to speak, we can actually tap into shared experience and actually figure out effective ways to deliver care in the community.

Oncology Data Advisor: That's great, thank you. That's very exciting. So, what's the key takeaway that you would like for attendees to bring home from this conference?

Dr. Penberthy: There's reason for optimism. Oncology is a really challenging specialty. People still have very significant diagnoses and very significant potential negative outcomes. However, with the newer treatments that are becoming available, there's huge reason for optimism. It's a really uplifting time to be in oncology, because we have more to offer patients, and patients' outcomes are better than ever. We're trying to get to the point where people have very good outcomes with very high levels of overall health. Ultimately, we want to get to the point where cancer is less of a scary diagnosis and more of just something you've got to deal with. We see it transitioning a little bit to chronic disease management instead of managing a frightening diagnosis.

Oncology Data Advisor: Definitely. So, where do you want ACCC to be in five years, 10 years, and how does this tie into your President's Theme?

Dr. Penberthy: I see ACCC as a leading education and advocacy organization. The education piece is promoting the latest and greatest science—figuring out, once something has been FDA approved or once something has faced a clinical trial with evidence that shows it's a better treatment and becomes a standard of care, how do you promote that so everybody's starting to use that as quickly as possible? The education piece is critically important to ACCC's mission.

But then the advocacy piece is also important. As an example, ACCC has a strong government affairs component. We have people who are looking at what the government is doing health policy–wise and looking at how we can advocate for things that we need to do into the future. As an example, through the public health emergency of COVID, most people are now very familiar with telehealth and Zoom calls. Even my 82-year-old father was complaining to me the other day that he had to actually go physically to a doctor's office because they didn't have a Zoom appointment available to him. So even people that are not necessarily digital natives are seeking that out.

That's actually a temporary allowance through the public health emergency, so we're advocating for that to be a permanent allowance. That requires some congressional action, and ACCC is on the forefront of advocating for that. I see that work continuing—I see the education work continuing. I see ACCC as kind of the glue between, say, ASCO, which has a lot of the information regarding medical oncology and what to do in the systemic therapy world. ACCC is kind of the glue that brings it all together, because it includes all the other services like nutrition and social work and pharmacy, and it really is the organization that helps bridge all that in so that you can create an effective oncology program wherever.

One thing I want to tell the public is that you can get quality oncology care anywhere. You certainly get it at the major academic medical centers, but in this day and age, information gets transmitted at the speed of light. With that, you can get quality oncology care in your community hospital, as well. I'm in a small, 300-bed community hospital. That's where my practice is. It's in an underserved area, and I periodically have patients that want to go to an academic medical center and hear what an international expert has to say about their diagnosis. I'm heartened whenever they come back to me because somebody at MD Anderson or Hopkins or Duke or the University of Virginia (UVA) said something very similar to what I said. Then they say, "Well, I could go to Texas for my treatment, but that's logistically challenging, and you're five minutes away from me," and they choose to have treatment in their backyard. I think ACCC really helps facilitate effective cancer care delivery in patients' own communities.

Oncology Data Advisor: Absolutely. So, are there any specific technology initiatives that you would like to see ACCC champion?

Dr. Penberthy: Sure. One of the challenges in any oncology practice, certainly one of my challenges, is the amount of time I spend in front of the keyboard. I think it takes my time away from face-to-face interactions with patients, and I think most of the oncology care team is really good at patient interaction. We're all human, and human-to-human interaction is so critical to effective care delivery. Yes, you need to do the right thing, but you need to convey it in a way so that people can hear that sort of thing. I would like to encourage the companies that create the systems—the electronic medical records (EMRs), the electronic health records (EHRs)—to have as few clicks as possible to get the information into the system. I would like to see a system at some point—this is aspirational—of zero clicks.

Again, that's aspirational, but I think it can be done. We have the technology available right now through Google and Amazon and Apple to do some really interesting things. I think once the tech people start to see the challenges that the health care system is facing, they will apply their significant resources to create systems that are really effective. I think we're transitioning from this time of going to the EHR and spending time away from patients to spending more time in front of the patients, explaining it, and using our time more effectively with things that we're good at—interaction with patient, that sort of thing.

Oncology Data Advisor: Great. Thank you so much for stopping by and talking with us. This is all very exciting to hear.

Dr. Penberthy: Well, I appreciate you having me, and thank you for your time as well.

Thank you for listening to this podcast recorded live at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting by Oncology Data Advisor and ConveyMed. For more expert perspectives on the latest in cancer research and treatment, be sure to subscribe to the podcast at conveymed.io and oncdata.com. Don't forget to follow us on social media for news, exclusive interviews, and more.

About Dr. Penberthy

David Penberthy, MD, MBA, is the Medical Director of Radiation Oncology of Bon Secours–Southside Regional Medical Center in Petersburg, Virginia, and the 2022 President of the Association of Community Cancer Centers. His President's Theme for ACCC this year involves utilizing technology to reduce health disparities, mitigate workforce shortages, improve care delivery and efficiency, and transform the patient experience.

For More Information

Association of Community Cancer Centers (2022). Available at: https://www.accc-cancer.org/

Association of Community Cancer Centers (2022). Association of Community Cancer Centers Names New President: David R. Penberthy, MD, MBA. Available at: https://www.accc-cancer.org/home/news-media/news-releases/news-template/2022/03/04/association-of-community-cancer-centers-names-new-president-david-r.-penberthy-md-mba

Transcript edited for clarity. Any views expressed above are the speaker's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Oncology Data Advisor. 


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