European Cancer Organisation

NEWS: Measurement: a key to unlock higher quality cancer care?

By Philip Poortmans, ECCO President (2018-2019)


‘What gets measured gets managed’ is common advice, often attributed to the management theorist Peter Drucker. Producing systems for measurement enables us to, in theory, gain a much richer understanding about current performance of processes and systems, and to then pinpoint more effectively where improvement efforts are most required.

The measurement question has been much on my mind in the past 18 months at ECCO as we have reflected on how to turn the consensus vision of the ECCO Essential Requirements for Quality Cancer Care, into a tangible reality across Europe. 

Drawing inspiration from the lively discussions that took place at the ECCO Quality Cancer Care event at the European Parliament in March this year, it was clear that participants saw a role for ECCO in bringing stakeholders together to tackle the quality measurement challenge.

It should be highlighted at this stage, that there is not a shortage of current attempts undertaken by a wide variety of organisations to address the quality measurement issue, with initiatives and programmes at regional, national and European level. Some are tumour-specific, others focus on aspects of service delivery, others on outcome. However, the level to which they speak to each other, and give the holistic overview, could be enhanced.

To drive the quality cancer care debate at European level requires a greater level of agreement about the critical measures that will enable us to assess, in a comparable way between countries, the quality of cancer care that patients are receiving, including measurement of the multidisciplinary aspects of care.

I was therefore delighted that at the recent ECCO 2018 European Cancer Summit in Vienna, a multi-stakeholder audience of healthcare professionals, patients, researchers, health economists and many others, agreed a unifying ‘Resolution’ on Quality Cancer Care (Measurement). The common goal expressed by the Summit is that:

“By 2023 an agreed set of core standards and evidence-based indicators (based on processes and patient outcomes) to measure the quality of all cancer services in European countries should be in place.”

Now ECCO turns its focus turns to summoning the political will to bring about the achievement of this resolution. 

In pursuing this resolution, we know all too well the controversies and inherent obstacles that attach themselves to any attempt to achieve greater commonality in approach in Europe, especially in an area as sensitive as cancer care. Yet as Peter Drucker also suggested ‘Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.’

More information about the resolutions of the ECCO 2018 European Cancer Summit are available here.


Article published in the Cancer World magazine (Autumn 2018 edition)

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