Research Article| Volume 36, SUPPLEMENT 1, S3-S13, September 2010

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The quality of cancer care initiative in the Netherlands



      In 2007 the Dutch Cancer Society formed a ‘Quality of Cancer Care’ taskforce comprising medical specialists, from all disciplines involved in the care for cancer patients. This taskforce was charged with the evaluation of quality of cancer care in the Netherlands and the development of strategies for improvement.


      The experts first focused on the relation between procedural volume and patient outcome and later aimed to identify other factors associated with high and low quality of the care provided in different regions and (types of) hospitals in the Netherlands. The question if cancer care in the Netherlands could be organized differently to assure high quality of care for all patients, was the main subject of investigation.


      An extensive review of the literature on infrastructure, volume and specialization on the one hand and outcome on the other was performed. In addition, a meta-analysis of the volume–outcome relationship for pancreatectomies, bladder, lung, colorectal and breast cancer resections was performed. Finally, variation in quality of cancer care between regions, groups of hospitals and individual hospitals in our country was investigated on data from the Netherlands Cancer Registry.


      In the Netherlands quality of care varies by hospital and region. These differences are not limited to surgical procedures and postoperative mortality, but are also demonstrated in other parts of the care process. Differences are only partly explained by differences in infrastructure, procedural volume and specialization between hospitals. Essential information on differences in case mix between these hospitals are lacking from the Netherlands Cancer Registry. More detailed clinical data are needed to reveal the mechanisms behind the differences in quality of care between Dutch hospitals.


      On a population level, there is potential for improvement of outcome for cancer patients in the Netherlands by reducing variation in optimal treatment rates between hospitals. Not only treatment of tumours with a low incidence but also other complex or high risk cancer procedures should be provided in a specialized setting, with the right infrastructure, sufficient volume and adequate expertise. In addition, outcomes should be monitored continuously and fed back to individual caregivers.


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