Advancing patient-centered cancer care

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 1.7 million people in the U.S are diagnosed with cancer each year, and this number is projected to grow as the population ages.1

Despite advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment over the past decade, access to high-quality cancer care continues to be challenging for some patients in the United States, especially those living in underserved communities. The delivery of cancer care is often fragmented and poorly coordinated; as a result, many patients face challenges to receiving timely and patient-centered care.

Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care

In the U.S., the Merck Foundation is supporting the Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care (the Alliance) with a $15 million, five-year (2017-2021) commitment. The Alliance and its programs aim to increase timely access to patient-centered care and reduce disparities in cancer care for underserved populations in communities across the country.

Program goals

The Alliance programs are working to strengthen patient-centered care in a comprehensive way by: 

  • Improving the coordination of care and helping integrate cancer care with primary care and other specialty services
  • Enhancing communications between patients and healthcare providers as well as engaging patients in their care and treatment decisions
  • Providing comprehensive psychosocial services and other supportive care for patients and their families

Alliance program sites

Through grants to six organizations across the U.S., the Foundation is supporting evidence-based, multidisciplinary programs working to enhance the delivery of cancer care and improve health outcomes for people living with cancer in underserved communities.  The program sites are:

The University of Michigan’s School of Nursing serves as the National Program Office for the Alliance, providing technical assistance to grantees, fostering collaboration among grantees and community partners, and leading efforts to disseminate program information to policy makers and other key stakeholders.

Independent evaluation

The University of Michigan is conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the Alliance and its programs to assess progress in improving patient-centered cancer care. The results will be disseminated widely to improve the delivery of cancer care in the United States.

During 2019, the evaluators collected data from the six sites on selected outcome measures related to interventions and services delivered to the 1,242 program participants. The evaluators reported the following preliminary results:

  • Receipt of cancer navigation services: Of those participants (832) enrolled in Alliance programs offering patient navigation, 65% received navigation services.
  • Engagement in care:  Of those participants (172) surveyed, almost 90% reported that they were actively engaged in the management of their cancer treatment and symptoms.
  • Utilization of health care services:  Only 18% of those participants (1,102) who were monitored visited an emergency department for cancer-related issues.

1 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2019.