BMC cancer 2017 12 1417(1) 850 doi 10.1186/s12885-017-3824-1
Over the last decades numerous initiatives have been set up that aim at translating the best available medical knowledge and treatment into clinical practice. The inherent complexity of the programs and discrepancies in the terminology used make it difficult to appreciate each of them distinctly and compare their specific strengths and weaknesses. To allow comparison and stimulate dialogue between different programs, we in this paper provide an overview of the German Cancer Society certification program for multidisciplinary cancer centers that was established in 2003.
In the early 2000s the German Cancer Society assessed the available information on quality of cancer care in Germany and concluded that there was a definite need for a comprehensive, transparent and evidence-based system of quality assessment and control. This prompted the development and implementation of a voluntary cancer center certification program that was promoted by scientific societies, health-care providers, and patient advocacy groups and based on guidelines of the highest quality level (S3). The certification system structures the entire process of care from prevention to screening and multidisciplinary treatment of cancer and places multidisciplinary teams at the heart of this program. Within each network of providers, the quality of care is documented using tumor-specific quality indicators. The system started with breast cancer centers in 2003 and colorectal cancer centers in 2006. In 2017, certification systems are established for the majority of cancers. Here we describe the rationale behind the certification program, its history, the development of the certification requirements, the process of data collection, and the certification process as an example for the successful implementation of a voluntary but powerful system to ensure and improve quality of cancer care.
Since 2003, over 1 million patients had their primary tumors treated in a certified center. There are now over 1200 sites for different tumor entities in four countries that have been certified in accordance with the program and transparently report their results from multidisciplinary treatment for a substantial proportion of cancers. This led to a fundamental change in the structure of cancer care in Germany and neighboring countries within one decade.