A new study suggests that some seemingly "modest" tweaks to the way an oncology practice operates could help realize millions of dollars of savings.
The study released Tuesday indicated that reducing the use of imaging services, getting patients discharged quicker and checking up on those people sooner could result in dramatic savings even as spending on chemotherapy drugs increased significantly at the same time.
The study of five oncology practices found that treatments for 810 patients that were projected to cost a total of more than $98 million actually ended up costing less than $65 million—a 34 percent reduction, according to an article published in the Journal of Oncology Practice.
That's despite the fact the actual spending on chemotherapy drugs used on the patients was nearly $21 million, as opposed to the $7.5 million that had been predicted on the outset of the project.
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One of the article's authors, oncologist Lee Newcomer, said that while he had expected some savings from the study focused on the common cancers of the breast, colon and lungs, it was not to the extent that was realized over the three-year project conducted by his employer, insurance giant UnitedHealthcare.
"I thought we'd see something," said Newcomer, a group senior vice president at UnitedHealthcare. "In our world, if we see a 5 percent decrease in expenses, that's a big day. But to see a 34 percent reduction was really shocking and a pleasant surprise."