As the country processes life with COVID-19 – both in its immediate impact to public safety but also with an eye toward preparing for future national health crises – a unique moment may be emerging. As healthcare leaders reconsider many of the preexisting frameworks on how to best deliver high-quality, cost-efficient care, patients are joining the conversation like never before.
Even before the global pandemic began, the demand for better care at a lower cost had already reached a fever-pitch among Americans. When asked in January about their top three issues for the 2020 election, over half of registered voters (56%) named healthcare a top factor in a national poll conducted by the Bipartisan Policy Center and Morning Consult – topping even those citing the economy as a primary concern (44%). And COVID-19 has poured gasoline on this already burning fire.
One potential positive side effect from the pandemic is that patients are educating themselves at greater lengths about the country’s healthcare system — how it works and how it applies to them. Healthcare leaders are likely to find patients emerging from the pandemic as more informed decision makers, with new perspectives and demands to how and where they will receive the highest quality and safest care possible.
COVID-19 Risks with Hospital-Based Services
For the millions of Americans diagnosed with a complex chronic condition such as Crohn’s disease or multiple sclerosis, being able to safely access ongoing healthcare services is critical to their health and quality of life. During the pandemic, patients with a suppressed immune system are especially at risk. Depending on the severity of their condition and prescribed treatment regimen, many patients must periodically enter and sit inside a shared medical facility for often hours-long infusion procedures. Every hospital visit exposes patients to heightened risks from a variety of healthcare associated infections. The CDC estimates that approximately one in 31 hospital patients acquire at least one healthcare associated infection on any given day.
To quantify the real impact the pandemic is having on this vulnerable population, a recent study from Avalere showed how provider-administered autoimmune therapies for the top 10 specialty biologics in May 2020 was down 45% year over year, even with autoimmunity on the rise. The brutal reality is that many Americans are now going extended periods of time without receiving these life-changing therapies, making them more susceptible to flares and other complications that result in emergency department visits and other escalations of care.
New, Innovative Options for Infusion Patients
On the contrary to hospital-based infusions, new options such as freestanding ambulatory infusion centers (AICs) and similar home health services are proving to be convenient, clinically appropriate, and often lower-cost alternatives for many patients. These specialized care providers are tailored to meet the unique needs of those with suppressed immune systems, as they help minimize exposure risk from shared healthcare facilities and ensure controlled interactions from medical workers.
As one example, IVX Health, a national provider of infusion and injection therapy for both adult and pediatric patients, has completely designed its clinical model and growing footprint of outpatient centers to exclusively meet the unique needs of those with complex chronic conditions such as Crohn’s and MS. IVX Health views its stand-alone centers, no waiting rooms, 100% private suites, and visits by appointment only as fundamental to providing the safest experience possible for these patients.
Many forward-thinking health systems, along with the payor community, are helping accelerate the shift from hospital-based infusions to these new alternatives. Not only do health systems view center and home-based infusion options as a safer alternative, they have also become ‘safety valves’ to preserve hospital resources and capacity when preparing for or managing an influx of patients. Healthcare payors are even proactively redirecting patients to these new care options through programs known as Site of Care (SOC). According to Magellan’s 2019 Medical Pharmacy Trend Report, two thirds of payors now have a SOC policy that actively redirects treatments from the hospital and into ambulatory infusion centers or other home health options.
Patients have a choice in where they receive care, and COVID-19 has only amplified the importance of understanding all options.
For more information about IVX Health, please visit www.ivxhealth.com.