Should your Hospital Have an Outpatient Infusion Center?
What is an outpatient infusion center, and should your hospital have one? An outpatient infusion center is a specialized clinic for administering infusion therapy for ambulatory patients. In this article, we’ll examine the current infusion therapy situation in small and rural hospitals, how to determine what opportunity exists, the steps for starting your own infusion center, the misconceptions about them, and the advantages one can provide.
The Current Situation with Infusion Centers
While most hospitals are doing infusions, they don’t have an infusion center, and there’s a huge difference between the two. “Many hospitals may be doing infusions in their ER or as patients walk in,” said Jacob Dozier, Chief Operations Officer at Community Infusion Solutions. “Most hospitals in America have a wound care program, and the vast majority have a hyperbaric chamber, but not an outpatient infusion suite. It’s not a service that’s on everyone’s periphery. The larger health systems and big hospitals generally have a grasp on it, but the infusion realm, outside these large, urban settings, is often poorly understood.”
For most rural and smaller hospitals, an opportunity exists to bring an infusion service line into their communities in a way that does not currently exist.
“In about 70 to 80 percent of the hospitals we analyze, there is a distinct opportunity to put an infusion center in place. This is an opportunity that is identifiable through analytics capabilities and algorithms that we have developed.”
* Based on an analysis of the patient population.
Starting an Outpatient Infusion Center
The decision to start an outpatient infusion center is not speculative or associated with risk. Instead, the Community Infusion Solutions model uses data to create a precise estimate around the opportunity. “We create data-driven expectations based on first identifying the patient population,” said Dozier. “The opportunity assessment is not something we pull out of thin air. We do an initial assessment, which we call a Level 1 analysis, using publicly available Medicare claims data.” If the Level 1 analysis shows promise, a deeper level of analysis occurs, which Dozier refers to as a Level 2 analysis. “We take the analysis a step deeper, looking at a year or two of the hospital’s own claims and admission data to learn who are these patients? What are they coming in for? What are the associated diagnoses? We also look at the payer sources that we would expect to see.”
When an opportunity exists, the next step in the process of starting an infusion center is taking all parties’ needs into account to make the center manageable and sustainable. “We bring to the table processes that promote positive patient experiences, while also considering labor costs and overhead needs,” said Dozier. “This includes the pharmacy and the nursing coordination component. We essentially help build and launch an operating clinic within the four walls of the hospital. As we do this, we streamline the scheduling and nurse expectations of when staff needs to be available. This is done to ensure nurses are not scrambling to take care of whoever walks in the door.”
The model for starting an infusion center is comprehensive, considering the financial as well as operational details. One way Community Infusion Solutions does this is by looking very closely at drug costs. “We consider what the most optimal drug cost is for a patient to see if there are other treatments that are more financially responsible for the facility to procure,” said Dozier. “In the course of doing this, we facilitate all the interaction with providers. By managing the patient population and communication with providers, we allow the nurses and the pharmacists to focus on what they do best: deliver the best care possible in the safest environment available.”
The Community Infusion Solutions model for creating an outpatient infusion center doesn’t ask hospitals to accept on faith there is an opportunity. “It doesn’t behoove us to encourage a hospital to sign an agreement for services only to have it wither on the vine,” said Dozier. “It strains our operations staff, our relationships, and our reputation. The analysis takes the risk out of the decision, and we offer it for free. It costs a facility nothing to have us complete an analysis for them. All they need to do is sign a non-disclosure agreement and provide us with their data.”
Infusion Center Misconceptions
Despite the opportunity, an infusion center presents to most hospitals, there are some commonly held misconceptions that are barriers to progress.
One misconception concerns who is going to deal with the doctor and get the necessary referrals. “Part of the Community Infusion Solutions model is a process for doing these things and making it a worry-free experience for clinical team members,” said Dozier. “We handle the patient scheduling for hospitals that adopt our service model, so by the time a patient walks in the center, all of that has been done. This includes the order, any physician coordination, insurance verification, authorization, or pre-certification, we complete it all. These functions are unique to our model. We take a huge load off the hospital staff by handling all the red tape associated with these functions.”
Another misconception Dozier frequently hears is the doubt that doctors will let patients get infusions at their hospitals. “For example, I will hear something like ‘we don’t have a neurologist, so we can’t provide neurology drugs.’ That’s simply not true. Providers want their patients to receive their medications in the most effective and the most accessible environment for that patient. Many of our client hospitals are often a significant distance away from where specialists operate. Relieving patients of a commute, and allowing them to avoid the complex navigation of a massive urban medical complex that can be an all-day affair is something that providers are sensitive to. Putting an infusion center in a rural hospital gives patients an opportunity to simply drive across town and get these services from their friends and neighbors.”
Starting Your Infusion Center Journey
Starting your hospital’s journey to creating an outpatient infusion center is simple. Use the form below to request a free, Level 1 analysis of your hospital. Based on the Level 1 results, a deeper analysis, also at no cost, is often warranted. The Community Infusion Solutions team will execute a non-disclosure agreement and guide your hospital through the data collection process.
The average Community Infusion Solutions customer experience is outstanding: an average year-1 cash flow increase of $310,000, over a 90 percent patient adherence rate, and a ten-fold increase in out-of-network provider referrals. Complete the form below to see what we can do for you!