New care models help cancer patients navigate complex journeys

Published August 23, 2019

Doctors diagnose an estimated 1.7 million new cases of cancer each year in the United States. And even though treatment varies by cancer and patient, navigating that journey beyond the doctor’s office can be overwhelming for some patients. Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are offering new resources to put patients at the center of this complex journey and support them through it, from helping them understand their options and receiving the right care to removing barriers to getting better. 

A team to help you on your personal cancer journey
A cancer diagnosis can be life changing. And the treatments can be physically and emotionally draining. This new model from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBS New Jersey) anticipates and addresses the breadth of a patient’s needs, from the physical to the emotional, helping patients avoid unnecessary complications and hospital visits.

  • The oncology medical home
    Horizon BCBS New Jersey has recently partnered with Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) to develop an oncology medical home for more than 6,300 patients diagnosed with most types of cancer. The medical home provides comprehensive, patient-centered, team-based care. It includes care coordinators, social workers, physicians, advanced care planners and nurses who develop and follow a patient’s plan for care throughout treatment and beyond. For example, oncology nurse navigators monitor patients closely between office visits. If patients experience complications, nurses can quickly intervene. “Instead of reacting to adverse conditions that can arise between cancer treatments and trigger ER visits or hospital admissions, we’re taking a proactive, coordinated approach to care,” says Allen J. Karp, executive vice president for healthcare and transformation management for Horizon BCBS New Jersey.  

A single point of contact to connect the dots
Cancer patients may need help connecting the dots between all aspects of their care – from their doctor’s treatment plan, to specialty pharmacy needs, to lab tests, to paying for care. Finding support at the beginning of a cancer journey can help patients access the resources they need before bigger challenges arise.

  • CARE: a dedicated nurse advocate, one phone call away
    BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s new CARE (Cancer Assistance, Resource, and Education) nurses reach out to newly diagnosed patients to provide as much or as little assistance patients want as they embark on their healthcare journey. CARE Oncology Program Manager Gretchen Castleberry says nurses used to keep patients on the phone for an hour, filling out assessment forms. Now they reach out a few minutes at a time to assess a patient’s immediate needs, as well as needs that arise along the way. “We're here as nurses to help them through the whole process, to help them understand what everything means, to troubleshoot and connect the dots,” says Castleberry.

Answers, after hours
Understanding a cancer diagnosis, the variety of treatments available and where to find support can be overwhelming. Nurses and case managers can help when they’re on duty, but having someone to talk to or being able to explore resources 24 hours a day could make life that much easier. 

  • Robin Care: a personal cancer expert and app, 24 hours a day 
    Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBS Massachusetts) has recently partnered with Robin Care to provide 24/7 support services and tools for cancer patients. The service offers cancer patients and their caregivers a kind of “GPS” for cancer care, whether via phone, online or through an app. Robin Care experts and online resources can help patients understand more about their diagnosis, what treatments are available and where to find more help, says Julianne Bride, senior director of health engagement programs at BCBS Massachusetts. The service can also review health claims, help patients prepare questions before a doctor visit and even record that visit in case a patient or caregiver needs to revisit answers to their questions. This service complements the full suite of case management and nursing expertise from BCBS Massachusetts by offering around-the-clock access to information and support.

Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.