Fighting the Cost of Cancer
In the last few years, we’ve seen prices rise in all areas of spending. Cancer care is not immune to this trend, and in fact, probably has experienced an increase in costs greater than other services.
Consider that in 2003, the average cost of cancer treatment was $37 billion. Ten years later, that cost has skyrocketed to $91 billion. That is an increase of 145 percent.
The increase in costs is due to a number of factors. The first involves innovations in cancer treatments that have arrived on the scene over the last decade. These include new and better drugs, and more targeted therapies that have driven up costs.
While it is uncomfortable to address, there is also a price to pay when extending life. OHC is proud of the role we play in helping patients live longer so that they can spend more time with loved ones. Doing so can increase the cost of care, sometimes by as much as 100 percent. But we’re committed to keeping your overall costs as low as possible without sacrificing our quality of care (and in fact, while improving it).
Perhaps the best example of this is our use of financial navigators; these financial experts work closely with our patients to identify foundations and corporations that offer grants to help pay for treatments. In fact, OHC has collected more than $2.5 million in financial assistance for its patients. And we continue to look for new funding sources to generate even more dollars for our patients in need.
OHC financial navigators guide patients through the confusing options and paperwork involved in finding medical funding, and help create a roadmap of how their treatments will be paid.
The fear that families have over massive medical bills and the financial disaster they could bring is real. In 2014, a cancer patient is 2.5 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than someone who does not suffer from the disease. The aid that OHC provides is not just financial. It lifts a huge emotional burden from our patients and their families.
Occasionally, patients may not qualify for a grant. If that is the case, OHC may offer discounts for those patients who complete an application and can prove their need. In addition, OHC will also help patients enroll in Medicaid to help pay their medical bills.
To help keep those bills lower, OHC takes steps during diagnosis to understand the pathology of the tumor, so they can apply the proper, targeted treatment. OHC has also set up team-based care. This concept brings together your physician, nurse navigator, and financial navigator to efficiently and effectively coordinate the best and most affordable cancer or blood disorder care.
Our physicians also work with patients on symptom management. We want our patients to be educated and to understand the disease. This proactive approach is intended to inform the patient of what to expect in the way of symptoms.
By keeping communication open between the patient and care team about symptoms, OHC can also reduce the number of complications, which are the source of tremendous and unnecessary cost increases.
Our nurse navigator and advanced practice provider programs are designed to help patients and caregivers manage their oral medications and self-care, another proactive move to prevent those costly complications.
Educating the patient and helping them understand their disease gives them shared decision management. Our patients have a significant role to play in their treatment and are able to make decisions based on their preferences.
OHC physicians help author nationally recognized, evidence-based treatment pathways. These are proven protocols for treatment that, when followed, are proven to reduce costs.
We’re also providing services that serve a dual purpose. For example, this year we began offering extended weekend hours at our Kenwood office (until 4:30 pm). This move not only added convenience to our patients, but will help reduce costly Emergency Room visits.
Finally, over the past two years, OHC has worked to improve its role as an Oncology Medical Home. This year, OHC expects to partner with a number of health insurance providers to further lower the cost of care for patients and local employers.
OHC is taking steps — and will continue doing so as part of our mission to ‘put patients first’ — in every part of its practice to minimize costs, increase efficiencies, find new funding sources, and work with patients to make their medical bills affordable. All while leading the tri-state in providing the best cancer and blood disorder care currently available.