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Proton therapy providers navigating COVID-19 cautiously

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | October 05, 2020
Rad Oncology Proton Therapy
From the October 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

These issues exponentially impact minority patients such as African-Americans, who have the highest death rate in the U.S. from most cancers and can potentially be subject to referral bias.

“To have a fundamental change beyond just our center and our community, we need all relevant stakeholders — lawmakers, providers, insurers — to have a clear drive to improve outcomes for all patients, not based on the color of their skin or the income of the patients,” said Dr. Charles Simone of The New York Proton Center.

Prior to the pandemic, Simone and his colleagues addressed these challenges in regular educational talks with the community about cancer prevention and screening. He hopes to resume them once it is safe to do so.

The SCCA Proton Therapy Center has an appeals coordinator who helps persuade insurance companies to cover certain patients. It also recently worked with the Washington State Healthcare Authority to show the benefits of proton therapy and expand coverage in Washington state.

"Out of that we were able to get an expansion in proton therapy coverage that improved access for the Medicaid populations here in Washington state," said Knapp. "Continuing to improve the evidence available and working with insurance companies to be able to get broader coverage is one of the key elements to making proton therapy widely accessible to all people.”

Alonso-Basanta with Penn Medicine sees a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic. For all the trouble and challenges it created, it has also provided a reminder that protocols and ways of doing things can always be improved.

“It forced us to reexamine our processes and staff to look at efficiencies,” she said. “Thankfully, we prepared very early in advance to be able to come across a number of different situations and bring care to our patients regardless of COVID, with many more eyes on every process that we were doing. I think every proton center probably did the exact same thing. It’s reviewing overall the way we used to do things and asking if it was the most efficient way to do it to allow patients to get treatment. The benefit was re-looking at our processes as a whole.”

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