Expert: COVID-19 Pandemic Enabled Home Infusion to ‘Skyrocket’


Timothy O’Shea, MS, PharmD, discussed the growth of home infusion programs and how they benefit patients.

In an interview with Pharmacy Times at the AMCP Nexus 2023 conference in Orlando, Florida, Timothy O’Shea, MS, PharmD, discussed the growth of home infusion programs and how they benefit patients. In particular, O’Shea reviewed a novel program by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, in partnership with Rutgers’ Cancer Institute of New Jersey and RWJBarnabas Health. The goal of the program was to improve patients’ experiences without sacrificing quality care, and while lowering the total cost.

Q: What changes in health care in recent years have enabled the widespread use of home infusion models?

A: So, home infusion programs have been part of, you know, the standard of care for many years—the past 5 to 10 years. However, historically, oncology drugs have not been included in such programs. One of the things that we saw, particularly with the COVID-19 impact, is that patients didn't want to go into the hospital to get their infusions, they didn't want to go into the infusion centers for fear of contracting COVID-19, especially oncology patients who are certainly at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and having more serious complications. So that was really a big driver, where we saw an increase in many home services. So, telemedicine skyrocketed during COVID-19 as did home infusion. Certainly, there could be some concern from a patient perspective of having someone in your home, however, less so than having to go into, in some cases, a crowded infusion center.

So, we saw overall, during COVID-19, there was really this deferral of care. People were not going in to get their routine screenings, and so was there anything that we can do to increase and close some of those gaps? It’s certainly something that we wanted to try for, and in this case, home infusion and many home services increased as a result.

Q: What was unique about the pilot program with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and Rutgers’ Cancer Instite/RWJBarnabas Health?

A: What really made the program unique is that you had really 3 parties working together, side by side. So, you had Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield as the payer, you had Robert Wood Johnson, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, as the hospital provider, and Qualitas as the home infusion provider. And, you know, had any of those 3 organizations, in my opinion, tried to drive this on their own, it would have been challenging. And having all 3 parties working together, I think, is what really made this unique. And we developed very early on, we had a number of work group meetings where we established the operating models and how we would share data with each other, how we would define the inclusion criteria, exclusion criteria, and it was truly a group effort where we were able to collaborate with each other and define what the roadmap for a successful program would look like.

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