Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions’ Clinical Pathways program sharply reduces the cost of treatment

DUBLIN, Ohio — A series of new clinical studies released Tuesday found that Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions’ Clinical Pathways program reduces the cost of cancer treatment, improves clinical care and shows promise for guiding treatment of other high-cost, complex diseases beyond cancer.

The five studies will be featured in early June at two prominent medical meetings, the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago and the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research annual meeting in Montréal.

Several of the studies found that the ability of the company’s Clinical Pathways to significantly reduce cancer treatment costs while improving clinical care — first reported at ASCO’s annual meeting last year — could in fact be replicated, when implemented by other payers and different sets of physicians and patients, in varying geographic areas.

One of the 2014 studies reported an 18.3% decrease in chemotherapy costs when physicians participated in the Clinical Pathways program. An earlier study, released by the company just last year, found a 15% decline. In both studies, patient outcomes were similar or better than those of a control group. For example, participating payers report that that their members experience shorter hospital stays and fewer emergency room visits, which reduced total treatment costs.

Bruce Feinberg, chief medical officer and VP Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions, said the new studies show the company’s Clinical Pathways are delivering the “trifecta of improved outcomes — reduced costs for payers, appropriate, aligned physician reimbursement and, most importantly, better quality of care for patients.” 

Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions’ Clinical Pathways are physician-led programs that establish best practice treatment protocols for specific disease states. Studies of the company’s Clinical Pathways programs have found that physician reimbursement can remain neutral or actually increase — while total treatment costs fall — when its Clinical Pathways are effectively implemented.

Feinberg reported that working with payers to develop incentives to encourage physicians to participate in the programs – and to develop new payment models that reimburse physicians for delivering cognitive services and quality care, are keys to the success of the program.

“It’s a win-win-win paradigm,” Feinberg said. “Every stakeholder involved in the healthcare process can benefit.”

Another study found that the company’s Clinical Pathways program reduced treatment costs while improving quality of care for rheumatoid arthritis patients. CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield reported substantial cost savings, while obtaining clinically equivalent results, by having physicians establish an evidence-based algorithm to guide drug treatments, and by incorporating that algorithm into Clinical Pathways.

In Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions’ Clinical Pathways model, local, physician-led teams establish evidence-based treatment protocols for their practices and networks. Participation is voluntary, but physicians are encouraged and usually incented to follow the pathways, which are monitored and frequently updated to reflect the most recent, up-to-date clinical evidence.

The goal is to make the treatment of complex, high-cost diseases as cost effective as possible by empowering physicians to consistently follow the best clinical evidence, and by reducing unnecessary or less effective treatments, thereby lowering total costs and improving clinical outcomes.

“As medicine grows more targeted, more precise and often times, more costly, all players in the healthcare system are increasingly focused on ensuring the right patients receive the best, most targeted and clinically proven medicine, at the right time,” stated Meghan FitzGerald, president, Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions. “This new body of research proves that our innovative approach to encouraging collaboration among multiple stakeholders can achieve those goals – while reducing unnecessary costs and ensuring physicians are fairly reimbursed for delivering the best possible care to patients.”



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