Dr Lalan Wilfong Talks Employer Involvement in Cancer Care Benefits

October 28, 2020
Mary Caffrey

Lalan Wilfong, MD, executive vice president for quality programs and value-based care at Texas Oncology and Community Oncology Alliance payment reform co-chair, discusses the role of employers in cancer care benefits and issues stemming from the pandemic.

Lalan Wilfong, MD, executive vice president for quality programs and value-based care at Texas Oncology and Community Oncology Alliance payment reform co-chair, discussed the role of employers in cancer care benefits and issues stemming from the pandemic ahead of his appearance on the panel "Assessing Provider Quality & Value in Cancer Care: What Should Employers & Self-Funded Companies Be Looking For?" at the Community Oncology Alliance Payer Exchange Summit.

Transcript

You are appearing on a panel addressing employer involvement in oncology benefits. How is employer involvement in cancer care changing?

Cancer care used to be off the radar for most employers. It fell far below musculoskeletal disorders, for example, in what their employees sought health care for. Now, with the growing incidence of cancer and the the cost of cancer care rising so rapidly, it's starting to hit the radar screens of employers as the significant cost driver for their healthcare book of business. So so the employers are being tasked with looking at cancer care, because it is hitting their balance sheets more for the cause, and trying to understand what they are paying for for that cancer care is a good quality care and are they getting the best value for the money they're spending on their employees with cancer?

What specific concerns to employers have about cancer diagnoses or deferred care during the pandemic?

The biggest concern that employers should have about this is the delay in diagnoses. We know that a screening mammography screening colonoscopies, for example, can catch cancers early where they are much more easily treated. And so employees can get treated and get back to work very quickly, versus waiting for that cancer to progress and present at a later stage, which then has negative impacts on patient survival, as well as people's productivity because the treatment protocols can be much more onerous on patients as their cancer as their cancer stage is higher.

A JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics study highlighted the fallout from delayed screenings during the first months of the pandemic. Can employers take steps to reduce the ongoing impact?

Definitely. There's a role for employers in helping their employees do cancer screenings. One is just education about that, making sure that they understand that even during the pandemic, that cancer screenings may be appropriate for them, encouraging them to talk to their physician about that screening and make sure it remains appropriate for them during this time. And then finally, I think the biggest thing is in benefit design, making sure employees have no obstacles to those appropriate cancer screenings so they can get them appropriately.