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New Research Further Supports Use of Financial Navigators in Myeloma Care

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Patients with multiple myeloma are living longer; therefore, their lifelong treatment expenses can become burdensome.

Oncology Nursing News® first published this article. This version is lightly edited.

New research shows that patients with multiple myeloma who are connected to a financial navigation program may be more likely to access appropriate resources and support services, according to patient-reported outcomes data from a randomized, qualitative study presented at the 2023 American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting and Exposition. This can have positive outcomes on reducing overall cost burdens and improving quality of life (QOL).

Managing finances in health care  Image Credit: janews094 - stock.adobe.com

Managing finances in health care

Image Credit: janews094 - stock.adobe.com

“On one hand, [patients with multiple myeloma are] living longer, despite having an incurable disease. But on the other hand, this means requiring lifelong and often expensive medical treatments,” study author Mia Djulbegovic, MD, MS, Division of Hematology-Oncology, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, said during a presentation of the results.

“Therefore, there remains a critical need to develop and evaluate pathways that not only identify patients who are at risk of financial toxicity but also connect them to the interventions that can reduce this burden.”

The investigators recruited adult patients with multiple myeloma, during their follow-up appointments, who were undergoing systemic treatment at the University of Pennsylvania.

In total, 193 patients consented to taking the Comprehensive Score for Financial Toxicity (COST) survey, an 11-item, validated measure of financial toxicity risk. Scores ranged from 0 to 44. Patients also completed a baseline survey to assess socioeconomic and demographic factors, cost-coping behaviors, QOL, and satisfaction. After 4 months, they completed a similar final survey.

Patients at risk for financial toxicity (COST score, < 26) were randomized 1:1 to receive financial intervention or usual care.

The financial navigation program aimed to proactively identify patients at risk of financial toxicity, comprehensively assess their needs, systematically connect them to resources, and follow them to ensure needs were being met. As part of the program, nurse navigators assessed financial and transportation barriers to care by telephone. They then performed proactive outreach to financial advocates and social workers, while coordinating resources for the patients. This was followed by monthly follow-up calls with the patients.

The primary outcome of the study was change in COST score and secondary outcomes included cost-coping behaviors, QOL as measured by the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT-G), and satisfaction as measured by the Patient Satisfaction Questionnaire Short Form (PSQ-18).

Eighty-three patients comprised both arms, with 41 included in the intervention analysis and 42 in the usual care group.

The mean patient age was 64.8 years, while 53% of patients were female and 39% were non-White. Further, 49% of the patients in the entire cohort finished college (P = 0.35), 46% made less than $60,000 annually (P = 0.40), and 58% were insured with Medicare (P = 0.24). Lastly, 64% claimed to have used prior financial support services.

After a median follow-up of 4.9 months, 95% participated in the financial navigation program and 68% completed 3 or more follow-up calls. In the usual care group, 17% had received financial support services.

Djulbegovic noted that the financial navigation program improved patients’ understanding of financial support services and reduced stress. “We also found in this study that financial support services focus mostly on medical bills and include a limited evaluation of outpatient drug costs. So this remains an unmet need,” she added.

When looking at patient-reported outcomes, the impact on patients applying for financial assistance was statistically significant with the financial navigation program vs usual care (23% vs 12%; P = .002).

“We found that a proactive and coordinated financial navigation program, while resource intensive, is efficient and scalable. It demonstrates high retention and leads to an increase in financial assistance applications,” Djulbegovic said.

She acknowledged that the study was limited by its participants, who were English speaking and literate only, and all insured. Further, it was limited because it was survey and telephone based, and there were no objective data.

Reference

Djulbegovic M, Doherty M, Fanslau K, et al. A randomized controlled trial of a financial navigation program for patients with multiple myeloma. Blood. 2023;142(Supplement 1):909. doi:10.1182/blood-2023-174451.

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