Value of the Patient Support Services Guide: A Practicing Oncologist’s Perspectives

An Interview with Kashyap Patel, MD
Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner, Carolina Blood and Cancer Care, Rock Hill, SC

Although treatment innovations continue to bring sustained hope to patients with cancer, the high costs of oncology drugs and the lack of access to new therapies can present serious barriers to patients. The financial and emotional stresses on patients with cancer can result from a lack of insurance; inadequate or insufficient insurance coverage; high out-of-pocket expenses for patients for cancer therapies, including copays, co­insurance, deductibles, insurance premiums, and transportation to treatment; legal issues; loss of productivity; and loss of employment or loss of work-related benefits. In addition, the financial burden of cancer treatment can have devastating effects on the physical and psychological health of patients, ultimately compromising the quality of their lives and adversely affecting their treatment outcomes.

In the attempt to mitigate these adverse effects, many pharmaceutical companies, federal programs, and nonprofit and voluntary organizations provide a myriad of resources and support services that aim to remove these barriers by minimizing or eliminating the financial and emotional burdens for patients with cancer; however, many oncology practices, financial counselors or financial navigators, and especially patients are not aware of the existence of these programs.

Furthermore, many patients and providers find it a challenge to navigate through the available patient support services and financial assistance programs, rendering these services hard to find and difficult to utilize for the individual patient.

Therefore, the current Oncology Guide to Patient Support Services from the publishers of Oncology Practice Management (OPM) fills an unmet need by providing an easy-to-use, concise, and comprehensive manual for cancer care providers, including oncology practice managers, practicing oncologists, and financial and nurse navigators.

This new edition of the guide provides a quick yet detailed reference source for information that seeks to bridge the gap between patients’ dire need for all-inclusive, specific information about available support services and resources.

This up-to-date edition of the guide includes individual, unique profiles of support services and programs for cancer drugs offered by all major pharmaceutical companies, including eligibility requirements for financial assistance from major cancer drug manufacturers, as well as information regarding the application process and direct contact information for the respective financial assistance programs. Feedback from recent surveys and interviews of high users of the guide in clinical practices, conducted by OPM regarding previous editions of the guide, has revealed a need for continuing and current updates of this annual guide, which is provided in this new edition.

Attesting to the value of the previous editions of this guide in clinical practice, Kashyap Patel, MD, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner, Carolina Blood and Cancer Care, Rock Hill, SC, told OPM, “I find the OPM Oncology Guide to Patient Support Services to be extremely useful, particularly at a time when patient out-of-pocket costs are increasing and support services are dwindling. The guide is a comprehensive, what you would call a 101 manual for the office of financial counselors. I haven’t seen any guide as comprehensive as this.”

Dr Patel explained that his oncology practice offers financial counseling to all of its patients routinely and has dedicated financial counselors on staff, who refer to the OPM guide on a regular basis in their practice.

“We do use the OPM Oncology Guide to Patient Support Services regularly, and our financial counselors have a copy of the guide. When a patient is diagnosed and the treatment plan is designed, we look at the disease foundations, or pharma sources, and find out how to optimize these resources to assist the patient,” Dr Patel said. “In our practice, we have been able to accommodate the majority of our patients with significant out-of-pocket costs with some sort of financial assistance.”

Dr Patel added that the OPM Oncology Guide to Patient Support Services helped his practice immensely in addressing the financial and psychosocial needs of the patient, which is now recommended as part of routine cancer care for achieving quality cancer care.

Dr Patel stated, “In the current practice scenario, providing financial counseling is an essential part of the quality requirement that we have to fulfill in order to have a successful oncology care model. This guide has come in very handy at a time when our practice is transforming to an increasingly patient-centered care facility.”

In particular, Dr Patel emphasized that his practice found the Directory of Patient Support Services useful, which lists the many patient assistance programs provided by all pharmaceutical companies, federal assistance programs, nonprofit organizations, and national foundations: the directory provides 2 comprehensive indexes, one by drug names and one by pharmaceutical companies.

“The index for companies helps us to browse through them very quickly,” Dr Patel said. He also found the Featured Profiles of patient support services offered by pharmaceutical companies and independent foundations very useful, because “it provides detailed information on eligibility criteria, enrollment processes, and benefits verification available to patients.”

In addition, he suggested that the Year in Review article, which summarizes the new cancer drugs and new indications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in the past year, very useful. “I would definitely strongly recommend the OPM Oncology Guide to Patient Support Services to my oncology colleagues. I am looking forward to the updated 2016 guide this year.”

We trust that this new edition will be useful and relevant for your financial counselors, navigators, and practice managers in improving patient and provider awareness of available support services for patients with cancer who are having difficulties accessing or paying for life-saving treatments.

We look forward to your suggestions and feedback about what you would like to see incorporated into future editions of this annual guide.