What does quality breast cancer care mean? And when does it start? Does it begin when a woman first walks into the doctor's office? When she first suspects she may have breast cancer?
The truth is, quality care begins long before any of this. It starts in the lab. It starts with how scientists approach the breast cancer problem. Why is research so important and how does it translate into quality care in the clinical setting? Because research holds many of the answers we need to detect, cure, and hopefully prevent breast cancer; it is a cornerstone to providing quality health care. Research leads to evidence, and the body and strength of that evidence form the basis of clinical practice guidelines. This means that the quality of research can be directly linked to the quality of care. The more quality research is done, and the more patient-centered values are incorporated into research and into the provision of care, the closer we get to "quality."
Quality is not only about evidence. It is about values - what is important to a patient. NBCC has developed a set of core values as a framework to measure quality. Our six overlapping core values are:
· Access to all the care you need when you need it
· Information that is complete and correct
· Choice about your doctors and your treatment
· Respect from everyone in the health care system
· Accountability so the right care is delivered in the right way
· Improvement in the system so that breast cancer care continues to get better
Let us look at a few of these values a bit more. What do we mean by "access"? We mean that when a person needs care, she can get it "without any trouble" because care is: affordable, provided regardless of ability to pay, timely, physically accessible, and evidence-based. When a person needs "information," she can get it "without any trouble," because information is: available, complete, correct, and understandable. When we say "respect," we mean that providers routinely assess and appropriately address a person's level of pain, her psychosocial needs within a cultural context, and that information is given as quickly as possible, using a person's time efficiently. Respect also includes protecting privacy and confidentiality in medical encounters with providers and in written and electronic records.
Breast cancer care can be inconsistent and at times dangerously inadequate or there can be overtreatment leading to even more problems. NBCC's core values help define quality care for health care consumers and health care providers alike. Together, they serve as a guide to design and evaluate quality health care public policy. We believe that successfully incorporating all of these core values into our health care system, along with a patient-centered, evidence-based approach, is the key to achieving quality health care for all.