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Cigna has rolled out a new service geared toward improving health outcomes for patients with complex cancers. Powered by Evernorth, the company’s health services business, the service connects patients and their community oncologists with cancer subspecialty experts at National Cancer Institute-designated centers.
The idea is that patients benefit from this connection by tapping into diagnostic innovations and evidence-based research without pulling them too far away from home.
The program was tested in a pilot study with select Cigna health plan customers. In it, 85% of eligible community oncologists and their patients participated in the program by having their treatment plans reviewed by expert oncologists in the PinnacleCare network of medical centers.
Among the reviewed cases, 40% of patients benefited from recommendations for alternative tests and therapy choices based on advancements in research as well as new treatment innovations.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT
Using proprietary technology, Cigna identifies patients recently diagnosed with a complex cancer, such as certain types of lung, breast, colon or other cancers, who are most likely to benefit from a consultative review.
Patients’ diagnoses and treatment plans are then reviewed by cancer subspecialty experts from one of more than 20 NCI-designated cancer centers to recommend the best possible tests, therapies or clinical trial opportunities for the patient’s cancer type.
The provider consult service is meant to supplement Cigna’s array of oncology solutions, which range from personalized case management and mental health services to financial support services.
Cigna’s underlying strategy is to capture more of the oncology care market by creating a framework that’s more comprehensive, following a patient from pre-diagnosis to treatment and finally to post-cancer care. The insurer also promised evidence-based strategies to manage the high cost of oncology medicines for patients and their plan sponsors.
The provider consult service is now in place for select Cigna clients, and is being expanded broadly for both Cigna clients and clients of eviCore, a medical benefits management company.
THE LARGER TREND
Cigna’s strategy as of late is to increase spending on startup businesses and digital health, as exemplified by its recent investment of $450 million into its venture fund, Cigna Ventures.
In addition to injecting extra cash into the venture fund, the insurer plans an investment in innovations which includes $1.25 billion in capital expenditures, part of a bid to keep pace with other insurers who have made similar investments in technology.
The company said it intends to continue making strategic investments in innovation through targeted “bolt-on or tuck-in” acquisitions, along with establishing positions in earlier-stage companies through the venture capital arm.
Evernorth, meanwhile, has entered into a number of collaborations in recent months, including a five-year collaboration with Kaiser Permanente for health benefit access and specialty pharmacy services, and a partnership with telehealth company Monument in an effort to make it easier for customers to access alcohol use disorder treatment through the latter’s virtual platform.
ON THE RECORD
“Clinical innovations in oncology continue to accelerate at an unprecedented pace, fueled by genomic data, precision medicine, and an explosion of new treatment options,” said Dr. Eric Gratias, an oncologist and chief medical officer for eviCore. “By using our powerful analytics to identify patients with complex cancer cases, we can bring the right experts together at a critical time in an individual’s cancer journey to drive better health outcomes.”
“Cancer is one of the most complex, fragmented, and evolving medical conditions in healthcare,” said Dr. Scott Josephs, chief medical officer, Cigna. “Through the power of Cigna’s family of companies, we have best-in-class capabilities across the continuum of care to predict, identify, and connect patients with the care they need, in partnership with their treating oncologists. This consultative service is an important expansion of Cigna’s integrated approach to supporting patients throughout their cancer journey to drive better health outcomes and lower costs.”