How CancerLinQ is Helping Improve Care in New England One Data Field at a Time


Have you ever noticed how small adjustments like streamlining meetings or moving your commute outside of rush hour can improve your life and work? The same logic applies to oncology care. At my practice, New England Cancer Specialists (NECS), we are working to make improvements every day for our patients and our staff. That is why we became a CancerLinQ practice in 2017.

The care team at NECS serves Maine and New Hampshire with a commitment to making life better for people with cancer and blood disorders. We do this by providing patients with access to excellence in team-based medical care, and information across the spectrum. Recently, we became the first Affiliate Member of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a top five hospital in the nation for cancer care according to U.S. News and World Report. As an Affiliate Member, our patients will receive increased access to Dana-Farber expert physicians for second opinions, tumor boards, and consultations without having to travel to Boston. We are also the only Maine practice selected to participate in the Oncology Care Model.

Joining CancerLinQ was an obvious next step for us in improving the care we provide through ASCO initiatives. In 2017, we first achieved ASCO’s Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI®) Certification, which allowed us to self-assess and make sure that we are scoring above the threshold on key QOPI quality measures and meeting ASCO’s and the Oncology Nursing Society’s chemotherapy safety standards. This three-year certification holds us to a higher standard of care for patients – going over and above the standard, which we are already meeting.

Over the past two years, CancerLinQ has allowed us to dig even deeper on our quality improvement efforts and monitor our work in real time. Before using CancerLinQ, we were assessing our quality of care by abstracting data manually, which takes a lot of time and cannot be done on a regular basis. We have now created a quality dashboard, using our data from CancerLinQ and other internal data to continuously show us where we are and what we need to do as a practice. Having the CancerLinQ tool has been hugely beneficial in linking that data and creating transparency amongst our care team.

NECS was the also the first practice to complete the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Merit-based Incentive Payment System, or MIPS reporting, through CancerLinQ.  This has helped us meet CMS’ measures better than ever before, while at the same time spot inconsistencies and streamline our data to make it more efficient and easier to understand. Seeing where the information is not entered and correcting this also helps us better stage the patient and improve their care journey. Small steps, such as entering chronic codes or making it clear in the patient’s EHR whether the patient’s treatment is curative or palliative, go a long way in giving our care team all the data they need in one condensed place.

CancerLinQ also provides zip code reports to allow us to look at the demographics of our patients and determine if there are different areas that we need to target for outreach. Southern Maine is compact and urban, but the rest of the state is very rural, and these reports give our leadership team the chance to evaluate the needs of the different areas.

What has made this journey so smooth is that the CancerLinQ team has been with us every step of the way. They have been great in helping us understand where the data is coming from and working with us to determine data deficiencies and develop solutions. I hope CancerLinQ will continue to expand its efforts to support the oncology community in improving care and I encourage all practices across the United States to explore participating.