The almost 1.7 million people diagnosed with cancer each year face a range of hurdles, but a new healthcare approach may alleviate some of the burden.
The Oncology Care Model — launched in July 2016 by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation — is a five-year pilot program that supports Medicare patients undergoing cancer treatment and aims to improve the care they receive.
Almost 200 physician groups and 17 health insurance companies nationwide have committed to providing enhanced services to Medicare patients during a six-month episode that begins with chemotherapy.
One of the goals is care coordination, often provided through a central care navigator who connects eligible patients with health and wellness services. The hope is that by having a person on hand to support patients’ needs, care can be improved, costs lowered and unnecessary hospital visits avoided.
At Illinois Cancer Specialists, care navigators work with Medicare patients to schedule appointments both inside and outside of the practice and to address a variety of non-medical needs like emotional support, financial assistance and transportation.
“It really just depends on what the patient’s needs are,” explains Laura Godel, executive director of Illinois Cancer Specialists. “We’ve actually helped one patient locate a food bank in one of our remote areas.”
Godel says the Oncology Care Model has helped the practice provide patients with more standardized care. “It’s really helped us coordinate between our sites,” she says. “Whatever their needs are, we ask them, we assess it and then we facilitate the help.”