Stress can have an adverse effect on a patient’s cancer treatment. It can weaken the immune system, increase bone pain and exacerbate fatigue. In some cases, the presence of stress can cause a relapse for those whose cancer had been in remission.
That is why, as they embark on the most frightening and worrisome time of their lives, cancer patients shouldn’t have to worry about money. But the reality is that cancer treatments can prove costly, especially if patients must travel far for treatment or are prescribed expensive medications. And that financial burden can create enormous stress.
At Hematology Oncology Clinic (HOC), we do what we can to ease the financial burden borne by our patients to help ensure they are not endangering their health by delaying care, skipping treatments or failing to refill their prescriptions—all of which adds to the stress generated by financial concerns.
Educating Our Patients
Rather than surprising patients with unexpected costs in the middle of treatments, we have them meet with one of HOC’s financial counselors at the outset to go over all pertinent financial information. We review their insurance plans to determine how much will be covered and, when necessary, we connect them with financial assistance and even free medications.
HOC has a five-person staff dedicated to helping patients ease financial concerns by tapping into a myriad of programs designed to help patients who need assistance covering treatment costs. With a decade of experience, our financial support team is intimately familiar with programs that most people aren’t aware even exist, such as grants that can help with copays and assistance programs through non-profit organizations and societies. Drug companies will also supply medications at no cost to patients who meet certain criteria.
We also encourage our patients to call us with any questions about their health rather than rushing to the emergency room when the situation isn’t life-threatening. Avoiding an unnecessary trip to the ER can save them thousands of dollars.
Another aspect of treatment costs is the type of practice a patient chooses for their oncology care. Community-based practices such as HOC can be up to 40% cheaper than hospital-based in- or outpatient programs.
The Financial Benefits of Joining a Network
One of the reasons HOC can help its patients ease financial concerns is its partnership with American Oncology Network (AON). Since joining in September 2018, we’ve seen our costs go down. The power of having a network behind us has opened doors to which a practice our size typically doesn’t have access. This has allowed us to get medications at much lower rates, a savings we can pass along to our patients.
With the help of AON and the willingness of various assistance programs to work with such a network, we were able to access $8.2 million over the past 18 months to help our patients, with about $6 million coming from grants. We were even able to help one of our patients reduce their copay to $0.
Through its participation in the Oncology Care Model, AON has been able to provide our patients with care managers to guide them through the process, including helping determine if a trip to the ER is necessary. This has helped cut out unwarranted expenses. And, because they are in regular communications, our patients feel comfortable calling them with questions rather than racking up extra costs that come from ER and hospital visits.
At HOC we strive to provide the best possible patient experience—providing compassionate and supportive cancer care, close to home. AON’s focus is on keeping community oncology alive, maintaining practice independence and serving patients outside hospital settings. Like us, their whole focus is the care of oncology patients.
AON’s philosophy aligns with ours: Putting the patient first. Through our partnership, we continue providing top-shelf care to our patients without adding unnecessary costs—and stress—at an already stressful time.