Learn the steps providers can take to tackle financial toxicity
In the realm of cancer care, a silent but significant challenge often overshadows the patient's journey: financial toxicity. Financial toxicity describes the negative impact medical expenses have on patients’ health-related quality of life, leading to negative mental and physical effects. The "Financial Advocacy Services Guidelines" by the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) opens a crucial dialogue on this pressing issue, offering actionable strategies to alleviate the financial burden on patients. Let’s delve into the key aspects and explore how providers can implement effective financial advocacy to enhance patient care and reduce the economic strain of cancer treatment.
1. Patient Education and Communication: This step is crucial in mitigating financial distress early in the care process. It underscores the importance of educating patients about the costs associated with cancer treatment and available financial support options as soon as possible.
2. Benefits Verification and Financial Distress Screening: The guidelines advocate for a thorough verification of patients' benefits and a standardized process for screening financial distress. This proactive approach enables providers to identify financial challenges early and address them effectively.
3. Access to Financial Assistance: Visibility to assistance programs and streamlined access ensure patients can secure the necessary support without undue complexity or delay. Historically, this is a manual process. However, utilizing technology can expedite the evaluation of patients to easily match and enroll patients to eligible programs, along with tracking progress towards assistance received.
4. Program Management: Emphasizing the role staffing and infrastructure has in financial advocacy, the guidelines recommend a dedicated team and resources are essential for successful financial advocacy programs. Furthermore, enabling these teams with technology will maximize productivity and patients supported.
5. Partner Engagement: Collaboration with various stakeholders, including healthcare providers, payers and patient advocacy groups, is crucial for a holistic approach to managing financial toxicity. Thanks to strong partnerships and advocacy, legislative efforts around accumulator programs have been successful.
The call to action for healthcare organizations is multifaceted. Firstly, providers should assess and improve their financial advocacy services to ensure they are effective and patient-centric. Secondly, more research is needed to standardize financial distress screening and financial advocacy interventions. Proactively expanding financial advocacy services across the cancer care continuum is also crucial. Finally, addressing systemic barriers to affordable care is paramount in ensuring equitable access to treatment and financial support.