Considerations for Opening an Infusion Center During Covid-19
Opening an infusion center during COVID is a viable opportunity for practices looking to service their patients in house and add additional revenue, if it is done right. Shipment delays, decreased responsiveness from vendors, challenges with payors, and decreased cash flow can create difficulties during this time.
An in-office infusion center can quickly become a practice’s largest revenue and expense line on their financial statement. It can be an extremely time-consuming business to manage on your own, even outside of COVID. According to the National Infusion Center Association, there are a few minimum requirements to open an infusion center:
And if managing on your own:
If you determine the minimum requirements are met, it is time to seriously consider utilizing this opportunity during the pandemic to get your infusion center operational.
Why Opening an Infusion Center During COVID is a Smart Idea
There are several reasons you may want to consider opening an in-office infusion center during COVID.
1. Service your patients: your biologic infusion patients may have experienced interruptions with their treatment. Many hospitals have put a halt to their infusion business during this pandemic for both safety and financial reasons. Patients receiving biologics may feel that they are putting their safety at risk by infusing in the hospital setting where COVID cases are on the rise.
2. New revenue opportunity: Many practices have shifted to telehealth during this time; there is ample space within the practice to start infusing. This will open a new revenue stream for your business where you may have seen a decline in other services due to COVID.
3. Increased control over your patient’s treatment: According to the American Academy of Rheumatology (ACR), “decisions about patient therapies and site of therapy must be individualized and made by the physician and the patient rather than insurance companies or other entities”. If infusing in your own office, the physician can monitor patient’s compliance with their therapy and adjust when needed.
These are all great reasons to consider opening your in-office infusion center during this time. It is also important to understand the challenges you will face if you choose to do this on your own.
Challenges During COVID-19
COVID has presented many challenges to biologic patients in general; some have questioned it they should remain on treatment. If you are considering opening an infusion center during the pandemic, it is recommended to speak to an in-office infusion management company so that you can make an informed decision and are aware of all of the challenges you may face. One thing to consider is that shipments are drastically delayed during this time.This can interrupt your target start date when ordering the equipment needed to open an infusion center, especially if you have not worked with that vendor previously. Many of the vendors you will be looking to work with are functioning at a decreased capacity. Getting the “right” person on the phone,or getting your questions answered can be a challenge. Decreased cash flow is very common during this time. If you have decided to move forward with opening an infusion center on your own, you need to carefully consider whether you have enough cash on hand to cover high cost drug bills as they come due before receiving payment from the insurance company. Payors have also reduced staff,which means longer hold times and extended payment times. Policies and recommendations have also been adjusted during this pandemic. It is important to consider updates and recommendations from the Infusion Nurse Society as well as the National Infusion Center Association when updating policies and procedures for your infusion center.
A Better Option
Another option is partnering with a management company, like OI Infusion. OI Infusion manages and operates dozens of in-office infusion centers on behalf of neurologists, gastroenterologists, and rheumatologists. Discussing your options with an infusion management company like OI Infusion can remove the risk and confusion that may be amplified during this time and take the heavy lifting off your plate. The upfront work you would need to do to make this successful has already been done for you. If you are interested in learning if an in-office infusion center is right for your practice, or if a management company could be beneficial, please schedule a consultation.