Cancer Support Program Documents Savings

Caroline Helwick

May 2013, Vol 4, No 4 - Economics of Cancer Care


Hollywood, FL—A case management program for terminally ill patients with cancer can reduce cancer-related healthcare costs and extend hospice length of stay, according to an analysis of the Cancer Support Program (CSP) of Optum Health, a health services company, which was presented at the 2013 National Comprehensive Cancer Network® annual conference.

Charlotte Wu, Associate Director of Healthcare Analytics, OptumHealth Care Solutions, Minneapolis, MN, presented a case study comparing participants and nonparticipants of the Optum CSP. The CSP, which was launched in 2006, provides patients, their families, and their caregivers with telephone case management (ie, education, support, referrals) by experienced oncology nurses and social workers who are supported by a physician staff.

“These services are intended to help patients better comply with treatments and more effectively manage symptoms,” Ms Wu said. “As a result, patients are less likely to have cancer-related complications and will experience a better quality of life. Since the inception of the program, patients have reported extremely high satisfaction. The intent of this study was to estimate the financial impact of the CSP.”

The researchers analyzed cancer-related expenditures and hospice utilization near the end of life for 7455 patients who were actively treated for cancer and another 1388 patients who had already died. Propensity score weighting of 100 variables was used to adjust for baseline differences between the 8843 participants and  nonparticipants. For the survivors, the study period spanned the 6 months after they qualified for the CSP; for the decedents, it was the time after program qualification through the date of death.

Cancer-Related Cost-Savings
“The savings were primarily driven by a reduction in inpatient admissions,” Ms Wu noted. This included a 5.7% reduction among the survivors in the program and a 16.8% reduction among the patients who had died.

These differences resulted in an average cost-savings of $1128 per patient per month for the survivors and $3999 for the decedents.

In addition, end-of-life hospice use among all deceased CSP participants increased by 0.56 days, or by 42%, Ms Wu reported.

“Extrapolating these results to our population, which has an active treatment cancer rate of 0.4%, these savings amount to about $1.01 per participant per month,” she said.

Ms Wu added, “Since the inception of the Optum Cancer Support Pro­gram, patients’ satisfaction has remained very high, at 98% satisfied or very satisfied.”