How Technology Can Improve Wait Times and Experiences for Cancer Patients

As healthcare technologists, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a platform you’ve built improve someone’s life in a meaningful way. While there are advancements all around us that improve our everyday lives — from the ability to arrange transportation with a click to the delivery of consumer goods within the hour — it’s often the changes happening in healthcare that make the most meaningful impact. While healthcare tech doesn’t always snag the biggest headlines, it can make the biggest difference when it comes to keeping you and your family members comfortable, happy, and healthy.

To demonstrate the many ways technology can help make the lives of a patient better we started with cancer patients. Every year 650,000 individuals battle cancer and receive chemotherapy as part of their treatment. Clinical protocols require these patients to receive a simple blood draw and diagnostic to evaluate their complete blood count and general chemistry. These markers drive medical decision-making for oncologists, and consequently the treatment center, on whether to administer the chemotherapy treatment for the patient.

But there’s a problem

Chemotherapy treatments are costly for a health system to administer without certainty the patient is eligible to receive the treatment on a designated day and time. Therefore, health systems have built processes and workflows in and around scheduled appointments to draw blood to ensure patients have the necessary variables approved prior to receiving their treatment. As a result, the average wait time in America for a patient to receive their treatment, after arrival at the treatment center, can range from forty-five minutes (as a barometer of excellence) to two hours (common). Combined with the duration of treatment (ranging from one hour to four hours depending on the chemotherapy) and the drive time to and from the treatment center, the average cancer patient has to dedicate nearly an entire day to receiving treatment. That means an entire day is devoted to blood draws and treatment during a period of time that the patient is feeling their worst and just getting out of bed is a challenge.

Technology Can Help

While there’s no doubt that hospitals and health systems around the country are working to make life easier for patients, they have inadvertently built processes that are leading to throughput inefficiencies and poor patient experiences. Given the current status of delivering chemotherapy in U.S. healthcare facilities, Workpath set out to disrupt this inefficient and ineffective model with one of the world-class leaders in cancer-care delivery in New York. Our goal was to use our technology to reduce their wait times, increase patient satisfaction, and simultaneously reduce costs and increase revenue.

We quickly observed that the current precedent was to couple visits and treatments with same day blood draws. The result was an inefficient model that could be disrupted by using mobile phlebotomists to simply collect the blood draw in advance of the treatment or physician visit. Equipped with the necessary diagnostic information, the health system could then accelerate their decision making and unlock efficiencies at the point-of-service and downstream across other business units within the health system including but not limited to the laboratory, pharmacy and floor nurses.

The Workpath team, consisting of professionals with deep experience in hospital administration, assessed the health system’s standard operating procedures. From there, the team worked with the hospital to assimilate our technology into their workflow and help guide their mobile phlebotomists in the field through collection criteria specific to the system’s internal laboratory. By leveraging Workpath’s platform, the health system then began to digitally dispatch their phlebotomists to the homes of their cancer patients to perform the specimen collection in a comfortable setting in advance of their scheduled chemotherapy treatment at the hospital (without contracting out to an external laboratory). Along the way, the health system had the ability to monitor the progress of the home specimen collection from their dashboard, send the patient appointment updates that a phlebotomist was on the way, and manage any appointment issues that occurred (such as a phlebotomists stuck in traffic or cancellation in real time. All home specimen collections were then delivered back to the health system and integrated with their oncologists’ electronic medical records, providing a higher confidence in the values resulted from the diagnostics.

Results that matter

Workpath’s partnership with the leading cancer treatment center in New York resulted in a median wait time of zero minutes, a meaningful improvement for patients who were in their most vulnerable state. In addition, patient satisfaction ratings soared to 100% while 100% of patients reported they would refer the Workpath model to a friend. By leveraging Workpath’s platform to dispatch their healthcare workforce, the health system was able to provide a mobile, flexible catchment in one of America’s densest metropolitan statistical areas that was both convenient for the patient and compliant with the system’s laboratory protocols.

The result of the Workpath implementation was a projected net-increase of 120 patients per day due to optimized throughput. Given the average reimbursement from insurers can range from $1,500 to $5,000 a treatment, the projected increase an annual revenue is conservative; however, it is fair to assume the combined cost savings and increased revenue exceeds $2mm per annum for the system post-Workpath implementation.

The American health care system has set out to accomplish the Triple Aim for nearly two decades: reduce costs, increase quality and improve outcomes. Through Workpath’s platform, health systems can accomplish this goal, as proven by our work with the leading cancer treatment center in New York. In this particular case, patients overwhelmingly selected Workpath’s phlebotomy model over the alternative, receiving a blood draw the same day as their chemotherapy. By using our technology, the health system was able to unlock thirty-three incremental hours to deliver more care to their population while outcomes improved as patients avoided unnecessary visits to their provider and providers received actionable insights into their patient population in advance of chemotherapy.

For more from Workpath, visit www.workpath.co