Measures in progress to make Florida a medical destination for cancer care, but Moffitt Center has concerns

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On Friday, Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong will host a symposium on the Department of Health’s plan to create a private-public partnership called Florida’s System for Cancer Research & Collaboration; and last week, the state Senate unanimously passed the Quality Cancer Care and Research act, a complementary measure which establishes a state seal of approval for cancer centers that meet designated standards.

Yet in the wake of these high-profile measures, both of which are intended to market Florida as a medical destination for high-quality cancer care, one of the state’s most prominent cancer institutions has concerns.

Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa is Florida’s only hospital — and one of only 41 nationwide —  to hold the prestigious designation of being a “National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center” — a title that reflects Moffitt’s excellence both in cancer care and in research.

Moffitt’s concern is that these new state-level designations could potentially “lower the standards of care or misrepresent the quality of care,” according to Jamie Wilson, Moffitt’s vice president for government relations. In other words, new performance measures could dilute the value of hospitals that are already recognized leaders.

Yet not all cancer centers or hospitals focus on research as much as Moffitt does, instead directing resources toward cancer care and treatment — and for these centers, Sen. Anitere Flores believes it is important to create other measures of excellence which can be used to trigger greater medical tourism and inspire even greater quality improvements in care. 

Flores, the bill’s sponsor, does not feel that her bill contradicts Moffitt’s individual goals. This designation would create a seal of approval for hospitals that may not focus solely on cancer as Moffitt does, but would raise standards across the board.

The Senate measure would make at least 71 of the state’s hospitals eligible for the designation as well as preferential status for state biomedical grants, and would provide opportunity for marketing through television, billboards and newspapers.

Governor Rick Scott has also prioritized the development of Florida’s identity as a destination for quality cancer care, and wants to attract more business to more Florida hospitals.