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Web site tracks quality of cancer care in Ontario

TORONTO – The Cancer Quality Council of Ontario (CQCO) and Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) have launched the Cancer System Quality Index – a Web-based tool for tracking cancer and the quality of cancer services in Ontario. It can be reached via the web at:

Said to be the first of its kind in North America, the index evaluates progress against cancer and points out where prevention, treatment and care improvements can be made.

The index, developed by cancer clinical, policy and research experts, has 25 indicators that measure:

• How accessible services are to patients – including how long patients have to wait for chemotherapy and radiation therapy at various sites across the province;

• The quality of treatment – including measurements of cancer death rates, deaths after surgery rates, and patient satisfaction with cancer care services;

• How efficiently resources are being used – including the use of tools such as Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) systems;

• How Ontarians are affected by cancer and cancer risk factors;

• Our ability to understand and measure quality improvements. (Significantly, CCO is not yet able to monitor diagnostic imaging services for cancer care patients, an area that is targeted for improvement.)

“This baseline measure is an important first step to what we hope will be a full and complete assessment of the cancer system in Ontario,” said Michael Decter (pictured at left), chair, CQCO. “Publicly tracking our progress and areas for improvement will bring attention to quality issues so that we can reduce the number of people getting cancer and improve the lives of those who do.”

“The Cancer System Quality Index is an important initiative that is consistent with the government’s plan to improve the quality of care for patients in Ontario,” said Minister of Health and Long-Term Care George Smitherman. “Together, with our wait times strategy and the emerging Ontario Health Quality Council, we will be well positioned to achieve the best possible health care results for Ontarians.”

More than 50,000 Ontarians are diagnosed with cancer each year and one out of every three will be diagnosed with cancer at some time in their lives. Progress against the disease can be seen in improved cancer survival rates – the five-year survival rate now exceeds 50 percent for most cancers.

“We have made significant progress against cancer in Ontario,” said Terrence Sullivan, PhD, president and chief executive officer, CCO. “Ontarians who get cancer are receiving good quality care and are living better, longer lives than ever before. To make sure that we continue to make progress, we need to know where we can make more improvements and focus our energies on these areas.”
The Cancer System Quality Index points out areas of the cancer system where quality improvements can be made.

With some exceptions, patients are receiving good quality cancer care, but waiting times for care are steady or slowly increasing, and access to care varies across the province. Too many Ontarians are likely to get cancer in the future, due to an aging and growing population, and too many Ontarians are increasing their risk for cancer due to unhealthy lifestyles.

More Ontarians are being screened for some cancers, but overall there is too little screening to detect cancer earlier, when treatments are more effective.

Our ability to track cancer at the point of diagnosis is better than ever before, but real-time information that would improve our ability to make course corrections quickly is not yet available.

“Clinicians all want to do a good job and the Cancer System Quality Index will help us do better,” said Carol Sawka, provincial vice-president, clinical programs, CCO. “For the first time, we will have the data we need to measure our continuing efforts to improve the quality of care.”

The Cancer Quality Council of Ontario monitors and reports to the public on the quality and performance of the cancer system.

Cancer Care Ontario is a policy, planning and research organization that advises the Ontario government on all aspects of provincial cancer care, provides information to health care providers and decision-makers, and motivates better cancer system performance.