Compass Oncology: Serving community with cutting-edge treatment
May 19, 2017
Published in the Vancouver Business Journal
Vancouver-headquartered clinic is growing despite a challenging healthcare landscape
America’s healthcare system has gone through significant changes in recent years. For both patients and providers in the oncology field – the branch of medicine that deals with prevention, diagnosis and the treatment of cancer – that change has been disruptive. While the future of healthcare continues to evolve, the mission of Compass Oncology remains unchanged: to be a voice of hope for patients facing a cancer diagnosis.
Headquartered in Vancouver, Compass Oncology is the only free-standing, independent oncology practice in the Pacific Northwest, with roots dating back more than 30 years. To date, the community clinic is made up of six locations (five in Oregon and one in Vancouver), a central business office (at 1498 SE Tech Center Pl ace, Suite 240, in Vancouver) and employs more than 350 employees, including 39 physicians.
When the clinic first began, a small group of physicians came together to serve patients. Through the years, the group has expanded to include several sub-specialties, including breast surgery and gynecological oncology, making it a multi-specialty oncology group.
In 2011, the clinic was rebranded as Compass Oncology, its name reflecting the group’s commitment to an all-encompassing approach to cancer treatment.
Dr. Lucy Langer, the clinic’s practice president, and Jonathan Kipp, director of marketing, shared that their treatment goes well beyond traditional chemotherapy.
“Today, our care of thousands of patients each year goes far beyond what kind of chemotherapy patients need,” they said. “We help patients across the entire spectrum of care, from diagnosis to supporting family and caregivers. We address all psycho-social issues, questions about heredity, and advanced care planning.”
The clinic is a part of the larger U.S. Oncology Network, and offers more clinical trials in cancer than other providers in the area. During the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017, Compass Oncology had 224 participating patients in various trials.
“Clinical trials play a vital role in our commitment to provide the world’s most advanced cancer treatments to patients,” said David Smith, MD, director of Research for Compass Oncology and associate chair of the U.S. Oncology Research Lung and Advanced Therapeutics Committees. “Patients being treated at a U.S. Oncology Research-affiliated practice have convenient access to novel, investigational therapies in state-of-the-art cancer centers in communities close to home with their own oncologist directing their care. This supports an optimal outcome while providing a better patient and family experience.”
Through participation in U.S. Oncology Research, Compass Oncology physicians have helped play a role in the development of 66 cancer therapies approved by the FDA.
Langer and Kipp both noted how these are challenging times in healthcare, and market forces in oncology have led to consolidation.
“Partnerships in our market between health plans and hospitals provide deep incentives for hospitals to tightly control referral streams,” they said. “These forces are sometimes at odds with the best possible patient care that we can deliver. We face challenges with reaching patients who we believe would strongly benefit from a community practice, but are unduly limited by alliances and consolidations in the market.”
Nevertheless, the pair said Compass Oncology’s growth remains strong and their commitment to providing patients with medical expertise and compassionate care remains steadfast.
Last summer, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) selected Compass Oncology as one of nearly 200 physician group practices and 17 health insurance companies to participate in a care delivery model supporting and encouraging higher quality, more coordinated cancer care.
That care model, company officials said, will help Compass Oncology deliver better value and outcomes to patients facing a cancer diagnosis – and it’s also contributing to the clinic’s growth.
Opening next year, Compass Oncology is building a new center called The Westside Cancer Center in Tigard. The center will provide comprehensive care to patients dealing with a variety of cancers, including tumor-specific expertise. Additionally, Compass Oncology plans to hire a radiation oncologist and gynecologic oncologist, as well as another pathologist this summer to serve central and East Portland.
As the clinic grows, Langer and Kipp said they want patients to know that Compass Oncology will continue to focus on giving personalized attention in addition to effective, cutting-edge treatment.
“Our position in the community, independent of the larger hospitals, gives patients and their referring providers comfort in knowing the services we provide and not driven by pressures or quotas to ‘keep’ patients in the system,” they said. “We listen. We answer their questions. And more than anything else, we know well that they are the most important factor while they walk this path. They are at the center of it all. And they will never be alone while with us at Compass Oncology.”