May 6, 2020

Why Neurologists Need In-Office Infusion Centers Now More Than Ever

The increasing use of biologics for neurological conditions, and a growing patient pool will render neurologists — and their patients — especially well-positioned to benefit from the advantages of in-office infusion services.

Neurologists in private practice face an increasingly challenging reimbursement environment. As payors implement stringent cost-containment strategies, neurologists have been subjected to substantial yearly reductions in reimbursement. Stringent documentation requirements, along with increasingly complex coding and billing procedures create more work for doctors.

In this environment, and considering the challenges of billing and coding for infusion services, it might seem fair to ask why any neurologist or neurological practice would even consider opening an in-office infusion center. Two reasons:

First: the provision of infusion therapies in the office setting is no longer an auxiliary nice-to-have. It is now a crucial ancillary service. Some infused biologics, like Tysabri, are now administered in the office setting in over 50% of cases — the reasons for which are as obvious as they are numerous, and the basis of their logic becomes more compelling the more time passes: Convenience, cost-efficiency, improved patient outcomes — the list goes on. Moreover, a majority of payors are phasing out coverage for outpatient hospital infusions, meaning that if patients haven’t already found a new site of care in which to receive treatments, they’ll soon be looking for one.

Second: in-office infusion center management companies are stepping in to help neurologists in private practice open and manage infusion centers. The development of streamlined, turnkey, end-to-end infusion center management has enabled doctors to reap the benefits of this high-value service offering without the increased risk or managerial burden.

Moreover, the market outlook for the administration of specialty pharmaceuticals is exceptionally favorable. This holds true for specialists in many fields. It holds especially true for neurologists. Growing patient pools, the industry-wide shift away from hospital outpatient infusions, a robust specialty pharmaceutical pipeline, and the increasing use of biologics for neurological conditions — all of this can mean only one thing: More prescriptions, more (in-office) infusions — and for those neurologists who open in-office infusion centers, more opportunities to benefit from what has become a critical “ancillary” service.

A Growing Pool of Patients with Neurological Conditions

In next 40 years, the population of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to increase by more than 50%. With an aging population will come a corresponding increase in the number of people suffering from chronic neurological diseases. Today, one in ten people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s — at the very least, this rate will hold, leading to an increase of patients requiring neurobiological Alzheimer’s treatments. This is just one example demonstrating the impending uptick in the need for neurology care.

Another factor contributing to the growing need for neurologists is recent advances in treatment to neurological disorders. The effectiveness of new treatments continues to expand the neurology patient market. Since a disease like multiple sclerosis (MS) can be managed, but not cured, patients with neurological disorders like MS typically require continual infusion treatment after diagnosis. In the long-term, this means that for every additional year that the average MS patient lives, they will require a year’s worth of neurology treatment.

The Growing Pipeline of Infused Biologics

Though new pharmaceutical treatment options for neurological disorders are emerging and creating better patient outcomes, many treatment options remain complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. Take, for instance, natalizumab treatments for MS. This drug comes with a lot of promise — especially in preventing relapse — but it can only be administered through intravenous infusion. While intravenous administration seems harmless enough, in practice, it often demands that patients commit to infusion treatment in a hospital facility.

Any neurologist who can offer patients a more personalized treatment option — such as an in-office infusion center — can expect to improve both patient outcomes as well as grow their medical practice.

The Challenges of In-Office Infusion Management

Physicians can make strong recommendations regarding what the patient’s treatment should be, but today, patients are exercising increasing agency over the when, where and how of their treatment. As such, doctors today have to find a way to sell their vision (and, necessarily, their services) to patients — and the provision of in-office infusion therapies are quickly becoming a key piece of the puzzle.

In-office infusion centers enable neurologists to deliver a fully-integrated care experience in the most appropriate, and most satisfactory environment for their patients — many of whom suffer from chronic conditions, and are therefore unduly affected by site-of-service. In-office administration likewise improves patient outcomes, as neurologists are better able to monitor treatment progress, compliance, and adverse reactions.

Increased opportunities for patient interaction promote stronger, more effective patient relationships. Drug costs (less than 50%) and administration costs are far lower in the office setting than in the hospital outpatient setting. Improved health outcomes, worthy in and of themselves, also deliver a host of subsidiary benefits to practitioners — improved patient satisfaction and retention, tighter risk control, and profitable revenue streams.

In-Office Infusion Management Made Easy

But while the benefits of in-office infusion centers are clear, and the potential revenue stream is substantial (patients with chronic neurological conditions spend between $20,000 and $200,000 annually on infused biologic drug treatments) — those benefits can only be captured when an in-office infusion center is managed well. And infusion center management is an entirely separate competency — one that neurologists and private practices often lack.

When private practices deploy self-managed infusion centers, engaging their existing staff to manage them, they often find their practice’s bandwidth further strained. By partnering with an infusion center management provider, and letting infusion center management experts handle the operational side of the service, they can streamline the entire process, improve outcomes, boost profitability, and reduce risk.

OI Infusion offers neurologists in private practice a turnkey solution for in-office infusion center management, helping them through every step of the process — from planning and installation to day-to-day operations and maintenance. Our proven model enables neurologists to focus on care while our expert staff manages every aspect of the infusion center.

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