Prices for biologics, chemotherapies and other infused cancer drugs and hormonal therapies provided by in-hospital outpatient departments were double those paid in physician offices, according to a recent Health Affairs study that looked at prices paid in 2019 by Blue Cross Blue Shield health plans. Per the findings, prices paid for these drugs were 99%-104% higher in hospital outpatient departments than those paid in physician offices for infused cancer drugs and 68% higher for infused hormonal therapies.
The biggest takeaway from the study is that it is much less expensive to provide the same level of care in a community oncology practice than in a hospital-based outpatient center – as much as 35% less in some cases. In the study’s cohort, the savings reached would have been nearly $1.3 billion.
That is significant.
Practice-Based Infusion Therapy
Lower cost to the patient is one of a host of benefits associated with practice-based infusion therapy. Unfortunately, for many community-based oncology practices, the price of these drugs and associated infrastructure can make it difficult to offer these services in-house. Unless, that is, they are part of a national network like American Oncology Network (AON), which has the contracting power and management experience to give our practices access to a wide formulary of oncology and non-oncology medications that may not be available to or are financially out of reach of smaller private practices.
Further, some independent practices may not have the time or manpower to fully manage infusion therapy. AON manages all that with standardized education, training, processes and evidence-based clinical guidance. AON provides user friendly tools for clinicians and staff to access that are rooted in the latest clinical publications in oncology. Further, our electronic medical records system allows access to standardized protocols for oncology and non-oncology treatments.
With the power of AON in their corner, our practice partners can provide their patients with an important therapeutic service that goes far beyond lower costs for their care. This extends specialty infusions for patients who need treatment for non-oncology disorders such as asthma, genetic and skin disorders, rheumatoid diseases, and Crohn’s disease and other gastrointestinal problems.
Receiving infusions at their community-based oncology practice makes for a convenient, cost-effective experience for patients, who benefit from being treated by specialized nurses and physicians without having to travel long distances. AON practices can provide the same level of evidence-based care for patients close to where they live at less cost. Also, along with saving on the cost of the drugs themselves, patients won’t incur the facility fees they would have to pay at a hospital, further easing the financial burden.
At AON, we’ve built our entire business model around providing the support our partner practices need to stay independent and focus on patients instead of paperwork. This includes putting our size to work negotiating the drug prices that enable them to provide comprehensive care in the community – including infusion therapy.
The quality of the care provided in the community oncology setting is second-to-none. That it is less expensive, as demonstrated by the Health Affairs study, is simply one of its many benefits.