The Quality Oncology Practice Initiative Certification Program, an affiliate of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, recently awarded a three-year certification to the University of New Mexico Cancer Center.

The QOPI® certification identifies outpatient hematology-oncology practices and medical oncology practices that meet the highest standards for quality cancer care. It designates those practices that not only score high on key quality measures but also meet the rigorous safety measures established by ASCO and the Oncology Nursing Society.

"QOPI participation reflects a commitment to quality of care that leads to fundamental changes in the clinical practice of oncology. Oncology practices that commit to quality and safety are those that provide the most optimal cancer care," said Allen S. Lichter, CEO of ASCO and president of the QOPI Certification Program.

ASCO launched QOPI in 2006 as a voluntary self-assessment and improvement program to help hematology-oncology and medical oncology practices assess the quality of the care they provide to patients. In 2010, ASCO launched the QOPI Certification Program, the first program of its kind for oncology in the United States. Since then, more than 100 practices have achieved certification.
The program uses data from patient records, practice records and on-site inspections in its evaluation of 17 oncology practice areas.

These areas include treatment planning; staff training and education; chemotherapy orders and drug preparation; patient consent and education; safe chemotherapy administration; and monitoring and assessment of patient well-being. "Applying for QOPI Certification allowed us to focus in detail on our policies and procedures regarding our chain of custody for chemotherapy," says Donald Whitehead, UNM Cancer Center chief operating officer.

Chemotherapy frequently represents the greatest risk for a cancer patient. The drugs themselves are very toxic and so a patient's treatment team must carefully measure them, anticipate possible interactions and then carefully monitor the patient for adverse reactions. "From the time the prescription is written until the time they're administered, the drugs our chemotherapy patients receive are verified and validated independently," says Whitehead. "This Certification signifies that we meet these rigorous national standards."

The UNM Hospital System, of which the UNM Cancer Center is a part, already has accreditation from The Joint Commission, an independent not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies healthcare organizations in the United States. The UNM Cancer Center also has Commission on Cancer Accreditation from the American College of Surgeons. "We are committed to excellence, we are committed to improvement and we are committed to quality," says Richard Lauer, UNM Cancer Center chief medical officer. "So we wanted to take the next step and have each clinical component certified. This QOPI certification demonstrates that our infusion suite and our administration of chemotherapy are centers of excellence."

In addition to QOPI Certification, the UNM Cancer Center has accreditation from the College of American Pathologists for its pathology laboratory and is in the process of certifying its radiation oncology and breast cancer treatment suites.