CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) is partnering with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) to offer in-home chemotherapy to cancer patients. The partnership is a significant next step for at-home cancer care in the U.S., which has lagged behind other countries in the area.
Initially, the two entities will provide chemotherapy to clinically eligible and fully insured CTCA patients through a pilot program in the Atlanta area. The partnership will leverage Coram — a specialty CVS branch that delivers infusion therapy services — as well as CTCA’s experience as a top oncology care provider.
The main goal of the pilot is to keep immunocompromised patients away from the COVID-19 virus. But it could also lay the groundwork for future cancer care in the home.
Although it will begin solely in Atlanta, the program is set to expand geographically over “the next few months.”
“The program is a major advancement in in-home cancer care because it leverages CVS Health’s Coram home infusion capabilities and CTCA’s expertise as a top oncology care provider to give patients who may have delayed their care due to COVID-19 the flexibility to receive treatment from the safety and comfort of home,” Sree Chaguturu, the SVP of CVS Health and CMO of CVS Caremark, told Home Health Care News in an email.
CVS Health is a diversified health care company that employs nearly 300,000 individuals across its network. Coram, on its own, is able to reach 97% of the U.S. population.
Meanwhile, CVS Caremark is the prescription benefit management subsidiary of CVS Health.
On its end, CTCA is a national oncology network of hospitals and outpatient care centers that offers an integrated approach to cancer care. As part of its mission, the organization combines surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy, among other services, to care for patients.
“There is a critical need for providing in-home therapy where possible to safely treat patients who are immunocompromised,” Chaguturu said. “As this program expands to other geographies, we anticipate home-based cancer care as being more widely available to patients seeking treatment during and beyond the pandemic.”
The CVS-CTCA program will be available to patients with breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and head and neck cancers, as well as a few others.
In April, CVS Health partnered with UCLA Health to ease the burden on hospitals during the COVID-19 crisis by increasing its home-based care capacity. That move specifically allowed Coram to increase its capabilities.
The specialty branch now serves more than 205,000 patients in home-based and outpatient settings per year.
Moving forward, Coram will use its nurses and technology to begin administering chemotherapy cycles. Patients will still begin their first cycle of infused chemotherapy in the hospital or an outpatient care center. After that, however, a patient can transition home and continue receiving those services.
The program will also provide regular telehealth visits and digital therapeutic check-ins from both Coram and CTCA staff.
Ultimately, the goal is to leverage the partnership and appropriate technology to continue delivering critical cancer care, while increasing patient satisfaction and reducing emergency room visits and COVID-19 exposure.
The program will likewise help ease anxieties that currently come with receiving health care. The public health emergency has kept patients — with cancer or other conditions — from receiving the care they need.
“For a variety of reasons, COVID-19 has caused far too many people to skip or delay treatments,” Dr. Chevon Rariy, the CTCA telehealth program director, said in a press release. “We’re seeing a 50% reduction in infusions, and, while a slight delay in treatments may have been appropriate at the pandemic’s onset, data is now pointing to increased mortality risk with every month of delayed care.”
Cancer care is often far more complex than other care delivered at home.
That’s why cancer care’s advancement to home-based settings has largely stalled, Rachel Cannady, the strategic director of cancer caregiver support for the American Cancer Society, told HHCN in November.
“You can’t bring a radiation machine to somebody’s house to do proton therapy. You just can’t,” Cannady said then. “The top three cancer treatments are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Maybe there are times when you can get chemo infusions, but for the most part, those are in very controlled settings.”
But the partnership between CVS Health and CTCA does offer a glimmer of hope. The more cancer patients are treated at home, the more likely it is that the industry will hone in on the possibilities of expanding that care further in the future.