By Donna Sweeney, ONS Director of Government Affairs

ONS joined the Patient Quality of Life Coalition (PQLC) in signing a final comment letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator, Seema Verma, on the agency’s proposed 2018 updates to the Quality Payment Program, CMS-5522-P. PQLC, which represents patients, health professionals, and healthcare systems, advocates for palliative care for patients and families facing serious illness.

In the comment letter, PQLC and ONS expressed support for the proposed rule’s provision to establish advance care planning as its own standalone improvement activity. The letter points out that although Medicare reimburses for the advance planning services that clinicians provide patients, much more needs to be done to encourage important advance care planning discussions with patients at end of life or in palliative care.

CMS’s Proposed Rule for Advance Care Planning Is Important to Oncology Nurses

Oncology nurses should take advantage of opportunities to learn more about how best to engage patients in advance care planning discussions to improve their quality of life. As part of the scope of practice, oncology nurses are often the first lines of communication and education regarding advance care planning decisions.

Addressing the Opioid Epidemic and Pain Management Needs for Patients With Cancer

In the comment letter, PQLC and ONS also communicated the nuances of ONS’s position on the nation’s opioid issue, which has recently come to the forefront of national attention. In efforts to address the growing concerns about opioid addiction and abuse, the CMS proposed rule requires healthcare professionals to take a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) training course, Applying CDC’s Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.

In the comment letter, PQLC and ONS urged CMS to be careful to make sure that such training does not result in access barriers to pain management for patients for whom opioids are medically indicated and provide benefit.

Oncology nurses caring for patients with cancer want to make sure that medically prescribed pain medications, like opioids, are available and accessible to patients to address chronic pain associated with treatment and cancer-related side effects. However, oncology nurses are also acutely aware of patient populations suffering from opioid addiction and are working to support efforts to prevent and combat drug abuse.