Avoiding Hospitals When Administering Specialty Drugs Could Save $4 Billion

A new research brief conducted by UnitedHealth Group found that patients who receive specialty drugs may save significant costs on healthcare if they switch their drug infusions from hospitals to private physician offices or homes. The research finds that a total of $4 billion could be saved each year if specialty drugs were administered in physician offices or homes instead of hospital outpatient settings. Patients and employers could save an estimated $250 billion between 2020 and 2029 if hospital price increases simply slowed to physician price increase levels.

UnitedHealth Group focused on the top five health conditions that make up 75% of all medical spending on these administered specialty drugs. The brief included savings for the following five conditions: multiple sclerosis, immune deficiency, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and chemotherapy. UnitedHealth centered its research on specialty drug infusions, a general term to describe highly priced drugs used to treat complex illnesses.

According to the research brief, a patient with multiple sclerosis could save up to $37,000 for 4 months of treatment. For immune deficiency, $32,000 in savings for 6 months of treatment. For rheumatoid arthritis, $28,000 in savings for 5 months of treatment. For inflammatory bowel disease, $21,000 in savings for 5 months of treatment. And for cancer (chemotherapy), $16,000 in savings for 4 months of treatment. These savings are only available should patients transition to physician office or at-home drug infusions. UnitedHealth Group’s research highlights a 33-52% lower average monthly cost or a $16,000-$37,000 savings in physician offices or patients’ homes.

In an effort to reconfigure what healthcare could be for outpatients who receive drug-infusions, tens of thousands of dollars saved may be a more affordable, or less expensive, option for Dallas residents. “What this means for Texas residents or patients in Dallas who are getting infused drugs simply means that they have some options and they should have more options,” says Michael Birnbaum, VP of Healthcare Economics at UnitedHealth Group.

Patients concerned with a change in medical expertise should they switch from hospital-administration to at-home drug administration would need to investigate the necessary training needed in order to begin at-home drug-infusions. According to Birnbaum, “At the beginning, you get whatever clinical supervision and training you need as a patient.” This transition is a decision Texas patients and their families will need to discuss with their healthcare provider as a potentially cost-saving alternative medical treatment. “There’s a real savings opportunity for the Dallas healthcare system and one that can really benefit patients’ quality of life,” said Birnbaum.


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