At last year’s Annual Meeting in Boston, I outlined some of my priorities as Chair of the ASTRO Board of Directors. High on that list was my goal to work with ASTRO membership and the Board to develop a new strategic plan that would guide the Society as we navigate the increasingly turbulent waters of the health care landscape in the United States.
A strategic plan is essential to help guide ASTRO in the coming years and outline measurable goals for our specialty as a whole. While the Board of Directors looks at the strategic plan every year—the last strategic plan was created back in 2010 and was last updated in 2014—I wanted to start fresh and see what emerged as the most pressing issues facing the field of radiation oncology.
Over the past year, we have gathered input from the membership, ASTRO staff and the Board of Directors to aid in the development our new strategic plan. We asked ASTRO committee volunteers what they believed the Society’s priorities should be. An outside consultant conducted focus groups with residents, private-practice doctors and early-career physicians to seek their feedback. We also asked your thoughts on the annual Membership Survey. At our winter meeting, the Board of Directors met for a daylong retreat to discuss all that we had gathered.
While it may seem intuitive, as a result of these conversations, we have articulated ASTRO’s core purpose: to advance the field of radiation oncology. But in order to advance the field, we must focus on our vision of what success looks like for ASTRO and its members. This leads to the vision that radiation oncology is the recognized leader in quality, innovation and value in multidisciplinary cancer care.
As part of the new strategic plan, we have created four goals—steps for ASTRO and its members to take on over the coming years to help achieve this vision.
- Establish radiation oncology as an equal partner in cancer field. Radiation oncology may have once been considered a niche field, buried deep in the basement. Today, we are a vibrant specialty and an equal partner in cancer care—but we must work to live that every day. This requires that we act as leaders in clinical care and that both patients and referring physicians know we are caring for the whole patient. We can only do that with our hands on the patient and not on the computer mouse.As we work to elevate the profile of our field, we want those outside of our specialty to recognize our value to the house of medicine. We can accomplish this by increasing the positive public perception of radiation oncology as an innovative specialty, generating impactful science, providing advice and input to physician peers on oncology issues and reflecting the diversity of the patients we serve.
- Retain and foster the intellectual research talent currently entering the field of radiation oncology. ASTRO does not conduct its own scientific research—but we can help create the conditions wherein our researchers are able to succeed. The Science Council has created a research agenda of big and small questions that needs answers to solidify our place on the cancer care team of tomorrow. We can help foster research within our specialty by increasing visibility of the innovative research already being done by those in our field, increasing our collaborations with those outside of our specialty and identifying how to best train and encourage early career researchers.
- Shape the health policy environment to support radiation oncologists’ ability to practice medicine to the fullest extent to benefit their patients. The new plan does not forget that ASTRO must be vigilant in its efforts to help craft health policy that supports our ability to succeed—which will result in better outcomes for our patients. This will include facilitating our ability to participate in government programs, such as Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), and creating and implementing new Alternative Payment Models (APM). Our advocacy efforts also require vigilance to protect access to radiation therapy for all patients. We will do this through enhancing our relationships with government agencies and policy stakeholders and increasing our participation on advisory panels and in policy development and advocacy efforts.
- Consistently deliver the highest quality and value care to cancer patients. At the end of the day, it all comes back to patient care. This strategic plan recognizes that it is critically important that we deliver high-quality and high-value care to all the patients we serve.
These goals, while distinct, are also overlapping. Our success in one area will help support the others. But this plan should not live on a piece of paper. It should be carried out by every member, every day, in every hospital, office and clinic. We’ve got the blueprint—now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Tell us, in the comments, how you can carry out this new vision and plan in your practice. And which goal resonates most with you? How can ASTRO achieve it?