ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dr. Barbara McAneny wants to show that oncologists can improve care and cut costs by offering cancer patients a single place that provides all their medical needs.
The federal agency that oversees Medicare found the Albuquerque physician’s ideas persuasive enough to award her a $19.8 million grant to demonstrate the model in New Mexico and six other states.
“We try to keep people out of the hospital,” said McAneny, an oncologist and CEO of New Mexico Cancer Center. “We feel that the best way to treat patients is to coordinate their care so they get what they need,” she said. “If possible, we avoid having people have to go to the emergency department.”
Cancer patients too often turn up at hospital emergency rooms for pain, fever, blood clots and other symptoms commonly associated with cancer and its treatment.
“If we’re watching those symptoms aggressively and intervening earlier before people get sick enough to go to the hospital, we can deliver better care,” she said.
Services such as evening and weekend hours and in-house imaging and pharmaceutical services can help patients avoid costly emergency room visits and hospital stays, she said.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the grant award this week, estimating the program will save about $33 million during the three-year grant period. The pilot program is aimed at Medicare, Medicaid and commercially insured patients with breast, lung and colorectal cancer.
McAneny formed a company, Innovative Business Solutions LLC, to oversee the grant. The firm will set up demonstration programs at oncology practices in Maine, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Ohio.
The program expands on a model developed by the New Mexico Cancer Center – a physician-owned and operated clinic based in Albuquerque.
“The things we’re doing at New Mexico Cancer Center are already saving the system a lot of money and providing better care,” she said. “We’re going to expand what we already do and teach six other practices to do it.”
The model calls for medical staff to educate patients about their illness and remain in close contact with them throughout their treatment. Patients should be able to schedule appointments promptly if they aren’t feeling well and get all their medical services at a single location, she said.
Other aspects of the model call for an in-house pharmacy and rigorous management of medications.
“What good is (chemotherapy) if it is sitting on a bottle on your shelf?” she said.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal