Bridging Gaps for Coordinated Cancer Care

Jun 4, 2013
The theme for ASCO 2013 was Building Bridges to Conquer Cancer. Our Oncology Therapeutic Resource Center (TRC) helps bring the concept to life every day.
  • Cancer

The American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) annual meeting was themed Building Bridges to Conquer Cancer.  At Express Scripts, this concept comes to life as we bridge cancer-care gaps every day at our Oncology Therapeutic Resource Center (TRC).

Patient-Centric Care

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the number of cancer cases in the U.S. is expected to increase 45% to 2.3 million by 2030. Part of the reason for this steep climb is the aging of America’s population; another is that treatment advances have made many cancers a chronic disease rather than a terminal disease.

With this growth of cancer patients and a fragmented healthcare system, having patient-centric pharmacy oversight supplementing the patient’s medical provider care is critical to helping improve patient outcomes. Through Accredo’s Oncology TRC, teams consisting of specialist pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, nurses, reimbursement specialists, patient service representatives and other experienced support personnel provide unique insight and consistent interaction regarding the specific indications, drugs and emotional issues the patient may be facing. 

Importance of Clinical Specialization

Because of the various forms of cancer that exist, the TRC is further divided into subteams that specialize in providing drug-specific support – for example, breast, genitor-urinary/prostate, malignant and benign hematologic conditions, and special-needs populations, such as pediatric patients. This patient-centric approach to the treatment of cancer – most commonly treated with oral medication – allows for extra specialization based on evidence-based protocols and continuity of care for individual patients by the pharmacist team. 

However, specialization and coordination of care means nothing without oversight.  Comprehensive support for oncology patients is crucial, especially those new to therapy and ordering their specialty prescription drug(s) for the first time.  Specialist pharmacists help oncology patients, caregivers and their healthcare providers in numerous ways, including:

  • Medication education and how to take it properly
  • Side effect management
  • Staying adherent to medication regimens
  • Addressing nutritional needs during treatment

Improving Care Through Coordination

At the most fundamental level, filling and taking medications as prescribed is imperative for cancer patients. Taking medications incorrectly can become life-threatening. Taking too much medication or interrupting therapy can contribute to long-term complications, emergency hospitalizations and other undesirable results – possibly even death. From a coordination of care standpoint, pharmacists should know all medications that are in a treatment program to warn doctors of any duplicate therapies or harmful drug interactions.

Specialist pharmacists, like those in our TRCs, can identify potential effects of drug interactions and make recommendations to patients or their physicians for other medications to alleviate related symptoms. 

Healthier Outcomes, Lower Costs

Cancer therapy needs to be thorough but also efficient, given the high cost of the medications. With treatments that can exceed $10,000 a month, it’s crucial that waste be avoided. That can entail encouraging patients to buy their medications from a specialty pharmacy, where coordinated care and support services will help provide better outcomes and overall lower healthcare costs. 

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Lab Staff
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