The growing importance of access to Integrated Delivery Networks (IDN)

Shifting tides in the healthcare sector reveal that more and more patients are turning to health systems or IDNs for cancer care. This leads to a couple of questions: what does this mean for oncology and hematology practices, and how can pharma and life science companies effectively engage with healthcare providers (HCPs) from these notoriously difficult-to-access health systems and IDNs?

Community oncology practices have traditionally been the backbone of cancer care. However, these practices have experienced a decrease in reimbursement and an increase in expenses, which has caused more practices to struggle financially. The result: cancer patients are forced to rely on hospitals or hospital-affiliated practices to provide treatment. These financial challenges have contributed to the acquisition of local oncology groups by hospitals and larger IDNs over the last decade.

According to the 2020 Community Oncology Alliance Practice Impact Report, 722 oncology clinics have been acquired by a hospital since 2008. And the proportion of hospitals that own a specialty pharmacy increased from <9% in 2015 to 26% in 2019. Over 89% of hospitals with >600 beds now operate a specialty pharmacy. In fact, IDNs and affiliated providers now account for 1/3 of US accredited specialty pharmacies. The goal of this vertical integration of providers is to improve margins and the quality of patient care.

How do patients benefit from in-house specialty pharmacies?
A primary benefit of an in-house specialty pharmacy is the ability of oncologists to ensure quality and continuity of care for cancer patients. This is especially relevant because cancer patients generally require a multidisciplinary, team-based approach to their treatment with reliance on specialty medications.

There are several important advantages for maintaining prescriptions within the health system. In-house specialty pharmacies allow the care team access to the patient’s electronic medical record, which increases their ability to effect immediate treatment changes for patients. This can minimize adverse events and unnecessary hospitalizations, and even promote better patient compliance. IDNs and high-touch health systems have indeed been found to be a positive influence on healthcare delivery overall.

How does a strategic partnership facilitate access to HCPs?
For pharma and life science companies, health systems moving specialty pharmacies in-house means that access to HCPs is more crucial than ever. Adam J. Fein, CEO of Drug Channels Institute, writes, “Manufacturers would be wise to incorporate hospitals into channel strategy planning for their specialty drugs.”

This strategy encourages partnership with trusted organizations, such as Excelera, that build and manage hospital-based specialty pharmacies. In addition to improving patient care, Excelera helps health systems manage operational risks associated with launching an in-house specialty pharmacy and reduce total cost of care. Importantly, Excelera increases a health system’s access to medications for complex cases by fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between health systems and the pharma industry.

This partnership is invaluable for pharma and life science companies, as health systems are famously difficult for manufacturer reps to penetrate, due to restrictive policies, especially in the era of COVID-19. And with oncology groups being incorporated into the health system space, the pharma industry will increasingly need to partner with these in-house specialty pharmacies to ensure the best possible clinical practices and outcomes for patients.

Key benefits of the Aptitude Health and Excelera strategic partnership
A partnership with Excelera provides pharma companies crucial access to difficult-to-reach health system-based HCPs in health systems nationwide. These include some of the most prestigious hospital and academic medical systems in the country: Intermountain Healthcare, Banner Health, Fairview Health, Novant Health, and Yale New Haven Health, to name just a few.

With the recent strategic partnership agreement between Excelera and Aptitude Health, life science companies can now leverage the access to HCPs that Excelera facilitates, along with Aptitude Health’s bandwidth and expertise needed to conduct relevant educational or insights programs. This also allows health systems to promote best oncology practices and achieve cutting-edge cancer care. As a provider of oncology and hematology insights, Aptitude Health draws sources from a nationwide network of oncology practices, and given the increasing shift of cancer care to health systems, Aptitude Health’s access to the most relevant HCPs in the country is even more important.

The impact of health systems on cancer care should not be underestimated and includes the centralized management of oncology practices, cost-effectiveness from novel reimbursement models, and flexibility to adapt to increased involvement of patients in planning their care. Navigating health system-based in-house specialty pharmacies will be crucial for the pharma industry moving forward, especially as a greater number of oncology groups are acquired by high-performing healthcare systems.