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Fierce Healthcare

To cover pricey cancer treatments, a rural Georgia hospital automated its hunt for philanthropic reimbursement

July 6, 2021

Wayne Memorial Hospital is a community hospital that recently launched oncology services for its rural residents.

While the facility is relatively small at just 84 beds and 500 employees, it’s one of the few options for the locals of Wayne County and its surrounding southeast Georgia communities to receive this type of care without driving an hour or two by car.

“There are four counties that are contiguous to us that do not have a hospital at all. Prior to us starting our oncology services, patients were having to drive at least 40 miles and as many as 75 miles to get care—and that’s not something that you want after getting six or eight hours of infusions,” Greg Jones, chief financial officer at Wayne Memorial Hospital, told Fierce Healthcare.

Thanks to a partnership with Savannah, Georgia-based provider St. Joseph’s/Candler, Jones said that Wayne Memorial’s oncology has exceeded expectations. In August, the hospital will be wrapping up work on a new building for its growing infusion services.

However, the community hospital and its patients were stonewalled when it came to paying for the high-cost, specialty treatments.

Roughly 17.5% of Wayne County residents don’t have any form of health insurance, and those enrolled in Medicare or a high-deductible commercial plan frequently have trouble meeting the copayments.

Wayne Memorial operates a financial aid department that extends the treatments to these patients but, according to Jones, could only spare a single person to seek out and review eligibility for the philanthropic aid and rebates that would cover the costs.

“A lot of [rural hospitals] lose money and fail,” he said. “Any type of financial mistake or misstep can cost the hospital its life, so we need to be able to get all of the reimbursement for our patients that we can.”

The solution, Jones said, was a tech platform already in place at its partner St. Joseph’s/Candler. Developed by a Seattle-based startup called Atlas Health, the tool integrates with a hospital’s clinical, financial and pharmaceutical systems to automate the end-to-end process of securing financial aid for patients with high-cost treatments.

Read the full article from Fierce Healthcare.