As president and CEO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Pat A. Basu, MD, MBA, looks to transform, improve, and influence cancer care on a large scale.
In 2010, Pat A. Basu, MD, MBA, was teaching medical and MBA students at Stanford University when he took a leave of absence to become a White House Fellow and senior adviser during the Obama administration and, for many healthcare reformers, those heady days when the ACA was signed into law.
“I always wanted to make an impact on our country and society and help to build a better American healthcare system - one that is more accessible, higher quality, safer, and more economically sustainable,” Basu said.
At the White House, he had a bird’s-eye view of the country’s healthcare problems and opportunities, and Basu used his time there to understand how the tangled and expensive American healthcare (non)system might be reformed.
Since April 2019, Basu has had a chance to use those insights as president and CEO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), a for-profit network of cancer hospitals and clinics competing in an area of healthcare dominated by some of the most recognizable names in American medicine: MD Anderson, Dana-Farber, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and Fred Hutchinson. CTCA, which is headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, has hospitals in the Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Tulsa metro areas, and two outpatient facilities in the Chicago area and three in Arizona.
According to the results of the CTCA’s latest treatment report, Georgia residents made up the largest proportion of new patients from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, on a state-by-state basis, accounting for 12% of the total (1,158 of 9,192).
“[Becoming president of the] CTCA was an opportunity to have a great impact on making the country a better place, making society a better place, and also building a better healthcare system,” says 40-year-old Basu. “Fundamentally, cancer has impacted me as a person, as a physician, and as a family member, so the opportunity to lead an organization that is fighting something that I have spent a career trying to defeat, with a platform that could leverage some of the things I have done in the past, was an incredible opportunity.”
Former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was among those who showered Basu with praise when CTCA announced that he was taking the company’s top job. However, Basu took the helm of an organization that has weathered some criticism about the way it reports survival statistics; the latest treatment results report makes a point of mentioning that two outside experts reviewed the statistics. In Georgia, CTCA won a prolonged political and regulatory battle last year to expand its hospital in the Atlanta area.
Basu says treatment results released in early 2020 show that “our survival rates and patient symptoms have only gotten better, even though we manage very complex and very sick patients.” He adds, “I want to give a great deal of credence and credit to those who’ve come before me, but I think we’ve even further upped the bar there.”
Basu has also been working on increasing the number of payers who will cover patients treated at the organization’s centers.
“We have really expanded our access with new insurance contracts with a variety of large payers across the country,” he says. “We’ve gone from a large amount of people who had trouble accessing us because we might not have had an insurance contract to now 98%, 99% in-network with these commercial agreements.”
Combining 1.0 and 2.0
Basu says that when he speaks to medical students today about becoming physicians, he talks about how interacting with humanity is fulfilling and learning the scientific facts, interesting. “I just knew that I always loved helping people and making an impact, and, fundamentally, the science and innovation are so dynamic and stimulating. But putting together my love of people with the intellectual pursuit, this career drew me in from a pretty young age.”
Basu, who is from Naperville, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois and his medical degree from the University of Chicago, while simultaneously getting his MBA from the university’s Booth School of Business. He went on to complete the Stanford Business School’s Faculty Leadership Program and became founding faculty director of health policy and finance.
After leaving the White House, Basu became president and chief medical officer of vRad, a “teleradiology” company that delivers radiology services remotely. “What I learned there is that you have to be good at 1.0 healthcare, which is the traditional taking care of patients within the four walls, but start to bring in 2.0 type of solutions, such as technology and telehealth,” he says. “That leadership experience taught me that if you’re going to build the best healthcare system, you can’t just do 2.0; you need the scale and reality of 1.0.”
Before CTCA, his work included senior executive positions at UnitedHealth Group and two Chicago private equity firms, Chicago Pacific Founders and the Pritzker Group. He also helped start Doctor on Demand, a telehealth company.
The new job
At CTCA, Basu says he is blending 2.0 skills with 1.0 elements. He is ramping up telehealth efforts and pushing the envelope on precision medicine and clinical trials. Like so many others in healthcare, Basu sees a need for collaboration: “For too long, we’ve operated in silos, so every large portion of the [cancer] ecosystem - providers, payers, employer, pharma - we’ve all worked really well…in our own verticals, but we can do much more together, and frankly, we have to do more together.
In a typical week, Basu spends a significant amount of time reaching out to partners to see what they can do together to solve problems. For instance, there might be a hospital in Seattle where CTCA has a patient in treatment for advanced or complex cancer care; Basu looks for ways to improve service for that patient by partnering with the hospital to keep them closer to home or better coordinating the care. There’s also the work of partnering with employers and insurance companies to find better solutions for value-based care and developing evidence-based pathways for the patient population at affordable rates.
Basu says he is also working with pharmaceutical companies; he explains that CTCA is in the business of delivering their treatments, so he is looking for ways that CTCA and pharma can work together to help more people on a larger scale. “We have hundreds of thousands of sets of data that comprehensively can unlock a new therapy, a new method of diagnosis, [or] a new piece of discovery that can help develop a better cure. So we want to work with them in those capacities,” he says.
One of Basu’s latest initiatives is the launch of a dedicated value-based care oncology effort, which looks to work with employers and payers on best practice principles. He says the first nine months have been “remarkably successful.” Looking ahead, Basu is optimistic about advances in therapy, precision medicine, and telemedicine. “What I see ahead is a patient can get our expertise while potentially not having to leave their geographical area,” he says. “We can do telehealth in oncology and coordinate care with a local provider, and there will be some network model to best care for the patient. My vision for CTCA is to help make that care more seamless.”
Keith Loria is an award-winning journalist who has been writing for major newspapers and magazines for close to 20 years.