Fred Hutch is an important center of research on how to improve value in and access to cancer care across all regions and health systems while reducing the financial burden on patients. By 2020, cancer care in the U.S. is projected to cost nearly $173 billion a year — a nearly 40 percent increase over a 10-year period. This estimate does not even include indirect and out-of-pocket expenses borne by cancer patients, many of whom experience extreme financial distress due to the cost of treatment. Meanwhile, payment for cancer care in the U.S. remains largely based on the volume of services provided, not the quality of care. And many in underserved populations are still not able to access appropriate care.
Our researchers apply their expertise in health economics, oncology, behavioral science, clinical psychology and health services research to address several multidimensional challenges: identifying which health services are most effective and cost-effective, addressing barriers to high-quality care, and understanding the patient experience in the health care system. Our goal is to improve patient outcomes across diverse settings and populations.
We work with other researchers and institutions around the region to investigate patterns of cancer care in our community, design and implement health care delivery experiments, and effectively translate proven interventions to the health care sector. Our partners and collaborators include health care systems, care providers, policymakers, industry partners, public and private insurers, patients and patient advocates.
Recent projects include a collaboration with a high-tech company to develop and pilot-test technology that helps cancer patients avoid the emergency room through better management of chemotherapy side effects. We are also working with Columbia University, University of Washington and the SWOG Cancer Research Network to evaluate and improve the preventive use of colony-stimulating factors, which are used to help the bone marrow produce red blood cells. These supportive-care drugs are used to reduce the risk of a life-threatening complication called febrile neutropenia in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
HICOR is an institute at Fred Hutch whose mission is to improve cancer prevention, detection and treatment in ways that will reduce the economic and human burden of cancer — and ultimately lead to better outcomes for patients.
Health economics research at Fred Hutch ranges from economic evaluations of cancer screening technologies and treatments to examination of risk factors for financial hardship among cancer patients. Most of this research takes place under the auspices of HICOR, which releases an annual report that links clinic-level quality measures and the cost of cancer care in health care facilities across Washington state.
Fred Hutch researchers investigate disparities in knowledge and access to cancer screening and care, devising culturally appropriate ways to raise awareness about the importance of prevention, early detection and treatment in underserved communities. Projects include a partnership with the Navajo Nation to increase vegetable and fruit consumption and improve general health among tribal members in New Mexico; a project to increase breast cancer screening among Latinas; a qualitative study of the experiences of African-American women who receive an abnormal mammogram result; and the use of simulation modeling to investigate the economics of prostate cancer screening strategies.