Symptom assessment gives oncology nurses a consistent matrix to directly evaluate the significance that symptoms have on patients’ distress, quality of life, and survival. both symptoms and their impact can evolve throughout a patient’s cancer course, making high-quality and detail-oriented assessments an essential tool for successful treatment and management.
Community Health Centers Get Funding to Advance Equity in Cancer Screening and Follow-Up Care
With the relaunch of the Biden-Harris administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, the fight against cancer is back in the government spotlight. To support the Moonshot’s goals, in May 2022 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allocated $5 million to the Health Resources and Services Administration-funded community health centers.
Senators Cantwell, Grassley Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Battle Unfair Drug Pricing
Patients with cancer and other healthcare consumers would receive reinforcements in the fight against financial toxicity with new legislation that would “empower the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to increase drug pricing transparency and hold pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) accountable for unfair and deceptive practices that drive up the costs of prescription drugs.” U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the proposed bill in May.
The Case of the Late Head and Neck Lymphedema
Samuel, a 55-year-old patient with a history of T3N1M0 oropharyngeal HPV+ cancer on the base of his tongue, underwent surgery followed by 70 Gy of intensity-modulated radiation over seven weeks with concurrent weekly cisplatin. He responded well and had a positron emission tomography (PET) scan three months post-treatment that showed no cancer. Two months later, Samuel calls the triage line to report swelling on the left side of his neck, the same area where he first noticed a lymph node that led to his initial diagnosis.
NCI Hosts Virtual Roundtable Discussion on Expanding Clinical Trial Accrual
Driven by the reignited Cancer Moonshot, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) hosted a virtual roundtable discussion on the possibilities and challenges of increasing clinical trial accrual in May 2022.
CMS’s Chronic Pain Experience Journey Map Will Help Patients and Providers
Highlighting the most prominent barriers that people accessing care face and the influencers acting on providers, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) unveiled in May Chronic Pain Experience Journey Map. The map came out of the work done under the 2019 Chronic Pain Stakeholder Engagement initiative to explore the serious role chronic pain has in patients’ lives.
Senators Baldwin, Capito Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Palliative and Hospice Care
The Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA), an ONS health policy priority that supports both patients and the profession, returned to the U.S. Senate floor in May 2022. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) reintroduced the bill to improve and sustain the workforce and the well-being of patients and their families with life-threatening illnesses.
U.S. Supreme Court Dismisses Cases on Medicaid Requirement to Work
A pandemic is not the time to experiment with Medicaid work requirements, the Biden-Harris administration maintained in April 2022 when it urged officials in Arkansas and New Hampshire to cancel their U.S. Supreme Court hearing appeals regarding the Trump administration orders and send the matter back to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for further action.
Health and Equity Matter for Black Mothers, HHS Says
Amid its celebration of Black Maternal Health Week in April 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) raised awareness of a sobering fact: Black maternal mortality and morbidity are a healthcare crisis throughout the United States.
Americans Have Stronger Access to Affordable Health Coverage Through New Biden Executive Order
An April 2022 Biden-Harris administration executive order on Continuing to Strengthen Americans’ Access to Affordable, Quality Health Coverage will protect and strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid. The order directed federal agencies and departments to review existing language and correct regulatory wording that might be inconsistent with the goals of offering more affordable access to health care.
Minority Populations Represent Nearly Half of 100,000 Whole Genome Sequences for Researchers Through All of Us
Among the first set of nearly 100,000 whole genome sequences from participant partners in the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) All of Us Research Program, “about half come from people who self-identify with a racial or ethnic minority group,” Joshua Denny, MD, MS, All of Us chief executive officer, and Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD, NIH acting director, said. “That’s extremely important because, until now, over 90% of participants in large genomic studies were of European descent. This lack of diversity has had huge impacts—deepening health disparities and hindering scientific discovery from fully benefiting everyone.”
Teleoncology Addresses Health Disparities With High Satisfaction for Patients and Providers, NCI Shares
Virtual appointments and other telehealth care allow patients and families to have ready access to cancer care from the comfort of their own home, Kevin M. Curtis, MD, medical director of the Center for Telehealth at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, said in a March 2022 National Cancer Institute (NCI) blog post praising the service. Curtis also highlighted telehealth’s role in addressing health disparities, its high satisfaction rate with both patients and clinicians, and the service’s future in cancer care research.
Racial and Ethnic Groups Report COVID-19–Related Discrimination, NIH Says
People from all major racial and ethnic minority population groups in the United States report experiencing more COVID-19–related discrimination than White adults, including being threatened or harassed based on a perception of having COVID-19, according to results from a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan Creates Path Out of Pandemic
President Joe Biden released the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in March 2022, enabling the United States to move forward with goals to protect against and treat COVID-19, prepare for new variants, prevent economic and educational shutdowns, and expand vaccinations.
Diverse Healthcare Equity Requires Providers and Policymakers to Unite for Change
Systemic racism persists throughout today’s society, presenting barriers to basic human rights and services, including quality health care for millions of people. Overcoming those disparities and achieving social justice require advocacy from all—but especially nurses.
Carole Johnson Returns to HHS as HRSA Administrator
Carole Johnson returned to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as the new administrator of the U.S. Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) in December 2021. Johnson, who previously served as testing coordinator for the White House COVID-19 response team before being replaced by HHS’s Tom Inglesby, expanded access to health services in New Jersey as the state’s human services commissioner.
Specialized Risk Calculator May Reduce Disparities for Black Patients With Breast Cancer
A new risk model tailored for Black patients predicts their risk of developing breast cancer as accurately as current models for White patients, researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Because Black patients are more likely to be younger at diagnosis, present with aggressive or advanced cancer, and die from the disease than other racial and ethnic groups, using the new model to personalize prevention and screening recommendations may reduce those disparities.
White House Initiative Addresses Disparities for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders
Advancing equity, justice, and opportunity for Asian American (AA) and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities in the United States requires an ambitious, whole-of-government agenda, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced in December 2021. To drive that agenda, the agency launched the Biden-Harris administration’s White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI).
No Surprises Act Protects Patients From Unexpected Medical Bills
Patients now have protection against unexpected—and often extraordinarily high—medical bills. On January 1, 2022, the Biden-Harris administration’s bipartisan No Surprises Act went into effect to ban surprise billing in private insurance for most emergency care and many instances of nonemergency care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
President Biden Reignites Cancer Moonshot Initiative
The explosion of immunotherapy in your practice? You can thank the Cancer Moonshot. New discoveries in oncodrivers for childhood cancers? Thank the Moonshot again. You can also thank it for better cancer prevention and screening strategies, attention to patient-centered care, and interprofessional collaboration among oncology scientists and clinicians.
U.S. Invests in Historic Funding to Drive Equity in Health Care
Unprecedented new funding will expand and diversify the country’s healthcare workforce, address workforce shortages, and support more than 22,700 healthcare providers committed to working in underserved communities, according to a statement from the White House. Vice President Kamala Harris announced the $1.5 billion investment into the National Health Service Corps, Nurse Corps, and Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery programs in November 2021.
Biden-Harris Administration Provides Nearly $1 Billion to Modernize Health Centers, Support Underserved Communities
An investment of nearly $1 billion will help modernize 1,292 Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) health center program-funded health centers across the United States, according to an October 2021 announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The funding will be used to support major healthcare construction and renovation projects and strengthen the country’s healthcare infrastructure.
Racism, Health Inequities, and Unequal Access to Care Are Oncology Nursing Research Priorities
Racial inequality persists across the entire healthcare spectrum—from patient disparities to the healthcare workforce’s current makeup and even to the education of the next generation of practitioners. But nurse scientists conducting clinical trials have the opportunity to change that.
Legislators Want Medicare to Negotiate Drug Prices to Improve Access and Affordability
Few political and policy issues resonate with all Americans as much as the costs of prescription medications, particularly those for acute and chronic diseases that affect the body and spirit, like cancer. Seizing the opportunity for real change, in August 2021 President Joe Biden made a major announcement about his administration’s intent to change the dynamic on the financial impact of drugs and government oversight.
HHS Secretary Releases Proposal to Lower Prescription Drug Costs
On September 9, 2021, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra released the Drug Pricing Plan to combat excessive pricing or prescription drugs and reduce the prices paid by the federal government for such drugs, and to address price gouging in the industry. The plan is a part of an initiative from President Biden’s executive order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy to advance the federal government’s ability to address overconcentration, monopolization, and unfair competition in the economy.
Legislators Call for Improvement in Palliative Care and Hospice Workforce
Legislators across the United States are recognizing what ONS has advocated for more than a decade: the need for improved access to and better understanding of palliative and hospice care. In September 2021, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Representative Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) voiced their support for palliative care through a letter to the U.S. Congress.
Biden-Harris Administration Invests in Health Care for Rural Communities, Provides $19 Million for Telehealth Opportunities
Despite its now-widespread use, telehealth still poses barriers for many patients, such as limited access in rural areas and privacy concerns. In August 2021, the Biden-Harris administration announced the investment of billions of dollars to meet immediate COVID-19 needs and help improve hospital care to rural communities. The funding includes more than $19 million in telehealth to improve the initiative in rural and underserved communities.
Program Helps Communities to Bridge the Digital Divide in Clinical Care
Nurses and other members of the healthcare community have both the power and responsibility to reduce disparities in access to telehealth services, Mark Rastetter, MD, Cynthia J. Sieck, PhD, MPH, and Rose Grady, FNP, said during a session held at the ONS BridgeTM virtual conference on September 14, 2021. They shared their experience creating digital equity among patients using telehealth at Ohio State University’s (OSU’s) Wexner Medical Center.
American Rescue Plan Lowers Costs for More Than 1.5 Million Americans During Special Enrollment Period
When President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law in March 2021, the administration began working to make improvements in areas such as access and affordability by increasing eligibility for financial assistance. The new law lowered premiums for most people who currently had a Marketplace health plan and expanded access to financial assistance for more consumers, and data published in July 2021 showed that from February 15–June 30, 2021, more than 1.5 million Americans signed up for new health insurance coverage using the 2021 Marketplace Special Enrollment Period (SEP).
HHS HIV Challenge Encourages Community Engagement to Reduce HIV-Related Stigma and Disparities
The negative stigma surrounding HIV can affect patients’ emotional well-being and mental health, and the stigma can come from anywhere: healthcare professionals, communities, and even themselves. In partnership with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health and Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health created the HIV Challenge, a community engagement program to reduce HIV-related stigma and disparities by “providing an opportunity for individuals and organizations to participate in developing novel innovative approaches that can be successfully implemented within their local communities.”
Telehealth Is a Rare Bipartisan Advocacy Priority
Nursing has long been associated with healing hands. Laying hands on patients’ bodies is personal and intimate, providing comfort, soothing reassurance, strength, and hope. It builds a sacred trust that engenders care. When that foundational element of nursing was removed to follow social distancing protocols during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, nurses found a new avenue to connect with their patients—through the use of telehealth.
HHS Releases New Practice Guidelines to Expand Treatment Accessibility to Americans With Opioid Use Disorder
Access to treatment for opioid use disorder is a priority in the Biden-Harris administration’s healthcare program, with resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) dedicated to raise awareness of the issue. In April 2021, HHS released new practice guidelines to expand evidence-based treatment to more Americans with opioid use disorder.
U.S. Senators Introduce Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act
In April 2021, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act, legislation that would waive the five-month waiting period for social security disability insurance (SSDI) and the 24-month waiting period for eligible Medicare benefits.
AHRQ Envisions Plan to Address Historical Racism and Inequality in Health Care
Historical and structural racism is a huge barrier to quality health care that has created two tiers of access to care and a lack of understanding of the healthcare system. Government health agencies and leaders, such as the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), are tackling racial disparities in health care directly to change the dynamic to equality for all Americans. AHRQ says it is assessing its own agency and examining how professionals can make the health services research field more diverse and inclusive by building on a foundation that includes producing and promoting the annual National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report and AHRQ’s social determinants of health database. By recognizing disparities related to race and ethnicity, income, and other social determinants, the organization plans to further address historical racism in health care.
Biden-Harris Administration’s Drug Policy Priorities Support Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery
Prescription overdoses and addiction rates have dramatically increased since 2012, with more than 70,000 deaths attributed to the abuse of fentanyl, opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine in 2019, a 35% increase since 2015. Addressing drug misuse is a top priority for the Biden-Harris administration, as well as researching systematic inequities in the country’s approach to criminal justice and prevention, treatment, and recovery.
HHS Solidifies Protections for LGBTQ Patients
In a May 2021 expansion to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and the Title IX civil law, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Office for Civil Rights, increased protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) people from discrimination. The revisions now prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Vivek Murthy Confirmed as U.S. Surgeon General, Again
Known as the nation’s doctor, the U.S. surgeon general provides scientific information and oversees the U.S. Public Health Service’s Commissioned Corps: more than 6,000 professionals who promote health across the United States. Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, who served as surgeon general under President Barack Obama, once again assumed his post as the nation’s doctor in March 2021 and said he will prioritize addressing the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and opioid epidemic during his second tenure. Murthy was appointed during his transition as the chair of the COVID-19 advisory board.
Patient Advocate Groups Challenge Medicaid Engagement Requirements
The American Cancer Society, along with 14 other healthcare groups advocating for increased access to care, filed an amicus curiae—Latin for “friend of the court”—urging the U.S. Supreme Court to deny state imposition of engagement requirements, like monthly community service, for Medicaid beneficiaries. The U.S. Supreme Court is likely to spend spring deliberating and convey a judgment before the end of summer.
HRSA Awards $99 Million to End the HIV Epidemic in the United States
In March 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative awarded $99 million to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA’s) Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. The funding will support efforts to link people who are either newly diagnosed with HIV or diagnosed but currently not in care to essential treatment and support services, helping them reach viral suppression and reduce HIV transmission.
CDC Builds a Powerful Plan to Confront Racism and Health
In the early 2000s, healthcare professionals began creating theoretical frameworks to better understand racial gaps in care. Two decades later, racial disparities remain across all aspects of cancer care, from clinical trials and screening to mortality rates and survivorship. Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), declared racism a serious public health threat. To put those words to action, the agency also unveiled Racism and Health, an online hub for CDC’s efforts and a catalyst for education and dialogue around the critical issue.
Nurses Have an Ethical Responsibility to Speak Up and Advocate for Patients
“Ethical issues and dilemmas are inherent in the care we provide to our patients and their families across the life span,” Joyce Neumann, PhD, APRN, AOCN®, BMTCN®, FAAN, from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said during a session on April 22, 2021, for the 46th Annual ONS Congress™. “We have a responsibility to speak up and speak out individually, through our professional organizations like ONS and the American Nurses Association (ANA), and internationally, when possible, to advocate to resolve ethical issues.”
Biden Establishes Gender Council to Advance Equity and Equality for Women
Although society has tried to take steps to confront gender disparities, women remain underrepresented across various sectors. Title IX in 1972 granted every American student the right to education without gender discrimination. However, female students still bear the brunt of sex-segregated programs and gender-based violence, two major obstacles to educational equality. Women consistently earn less than their male counterparts. The wage gap is larger for most women of color, and gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace perpetuate economic divides. More women work today than ever before, but they face barriers to leadership roles, such as stereotypes about their performance abilities, uneven demands of motherhood compared to male partners, and the reality that many workplaces prefer and reward masculine leadership styles. Health needs are substantially greater for older women compared to older men, but women reported fewer visits with a physician and lesser likelihood to stay in a hospital.
Empower Recent Graduate Nurses to Be Patient Advocates
Most nurses can attest to the immense personal and professional growth that takes place during the first year of their nursing practice. When I graduated in May 2019, I began working on a blood and marrow transplant (BMT) unit. The BMT process is long and intensive, but it provides opportunities to develop strong connections with our patients. We often care for the same patient for multiple weeks or months and then again a year or two later if they experience longer-term complications. As a newly minted nurse, I had a lot to learn about my specialty and about nursing in general, but my fresh perspective made learning exciting.
HHS Releases National Strategic Plan to End HIV Epidemic
The two most recent administrations prioritized ending the HIV epidemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 700,000 Americans since the virus was first identified in the 1980s. To follow those initial efforts, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a strategic roadmap to end the HIV epidemic and reduce new HIV infections by 90% by 2030.
U.S. Rep. Underwood, RN, Highlights Health Priorities in Open Letter to Biden
After a contentious election season, U.S. Representative Lauren A. Underwood, RN, (D-IL) returned to Capitol Hill as a new subcommittee chair and the same drive to push forward on healthcare issues, most recently with an open letter to President Joe Biden.
Biden Addresses Health Care and Racial Disparities in Series of Executive Orders
Since taking office, President Joe Biden has made good on his campaign promises to change federal tone and action in response to Americans’ concerns about health care and racial equity. On January 28, 2021, Biden signed an executive order (EO) extending the timeline for more Americans to apply for and receive access to the Affordable Care Act, reiterating his commitment to the law known as Obamacare. Biden also signed an EO supporting women’s health by reinstating Title X protections.
CMS Changes to Medicare Prescription Coverage Could Affect Patient Care
From Teddy Roosevelt to JFK, presidents throughout history have sent legislation to Capitol Hill with the intent to expand healthcare coverage to more Americans. Finally, when Lyndon B. Johnson drafted a bill and pushed it through Congress by expanding sections of the Social Security Act, Medicare become an entitlement and is now implemented by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). During the past 50 years, federal health coverage has grown to include Medicaid, maternal and childcare assistance, public health programs, and prescription medication pricing.
Lawmakers Push for Permanent Telehealth Services
In a rare moment of bicameral success, 49 U.S. House of Representatives and Senate members introduced legislation to make permanent the Medicare telehealth coverage that had been introduced as a temporary measure during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.