The American Cancer Society and Color Health expand cancer care partnership

Steven Loeb · March 19, 2024 · Short URL:

The two organizations initially launched the Cancer Prevention and Screening Program last year

Last summer, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and population health technology company Color Health announced they were partnering on the Cancer Prevention and Screening Program to tackle the challenges patients face in finding the appropriate care and support they needs during their cancer journey.

"The partnership provides a comprehensive cancer program to provide care and support while also lowering access barriers, reducing costs and thinking holistically about cancer -- which is not just a medical issue, but something that is far more complex," Caroline Savello, President at Color Health, told VatorNews.

"The program is designed around the two most impactful ways to reduce the physical and financial impacts of cancer: catching it early and ensuring treatment is well-managed. The program provides a practical way for the ACS to increase rates of cancer screening and access to better cancer care and support for the 150 million Americans who receive health care through either their employer or union."

Now, after first implementing the screening and prevention program in October 2023, the two organizations have decided to expand their partnership, adding support services for peri-diagnosis, post-diagnosis, and survivorship into the program.

"As we spoke with employers and unions over the past year, we continued to hear the need for something more comprehensive. We heard from benefit leaders that they would receive a call from an employee or member about their cancer diagnosis, and not knowing where to send the employee for help," Savello explained.

"We want to be the front door for those employees, to be the support system for those employees needing support navigating our complex healthcare system."

Specifically, the Color and ACS program adds Color Medical clinical teams to manage any abnormal screening through confirmed diagnosis, specialized care for high-risk individuals, holistic support for employees in cancer treatment, and integrated clinical and mental health support for survivors. The program also includes workforce education and prevention activities, screening access, diagnosis management, cancer treatment support, and a robust survivorship program. 

Telehealth appointments are offered via video or phone that are available same/next day as well as messaging with the care team, while clinicians provide care for patients across all aspects of their journey, from counseling patients about their risk of cancer and ways to prevent it, to ensuring cancer survivors get the coordinated care they need after cancer.

"This new solution for employers and funds supports both earlier detection and better outcomes during treatment and beyond. Through the program, we deliver evidence-based care, robust patient support, and trusted, rigorous education and resources that help improve member engagement and outcomes, and deliver financial savings," Savello said. 

Since first implementing program, several organizations have made it available to their employees and members off-cycle, including Hasbro, Teamsters Health & Welfare Fund of Philadelphia & Vicinity, and Andersen Construction. So far, hundreds of employees and members who have gone through the screening program.

In terms of ROI, the program has seen high rates of engagement in appropriate care, including 5x higher utilization than other programs within some union populations, including for participants who have not seen a provider in the past year. The program has also resulted in higher adherence to screening guidelines: over 77% increase in adherence for average-risk participants after Color’s program and over a 2X increase in adherence amongst high-risk participants after Color’s program.

Meanwhile, 84% of participants increased their familiarity with the timing and frequency of cancer screening, guidelines-based screening adherence rates doubled to tripled in just eight weeks, 89% of participants reported satisfaction with a Color clinician as excellent or very good, and 90% of participants said they would be interested in emotional or social support if they were to receive a cancer diagnosis.

As part of the expanded program, Color also revealed it will be running a Virtual Cancer Clinic, which includes an in-house clinical care team that will include practicing physician teams, a specialist oncologist network, high-risk clinical coordinators, and genetic counselors; an integrated diagnostics and a nationwide imaging network, which will facilitate screening and follow-up diagnostic care; and a peer support program, Color Cancer Connect, which offers mental health support services, while Care Advocates take on logistical needs such as appointment scheduling and offer support on financial considerations of cancer prevention, detection, and care.

ACS's involvement in the clinic through program delivery, which means informing Color's protocols based on their evidence-based screening guidelines and providing scientific leadership and research in high-risk care. ACS also informs educational resources for eligible populations, Cancer Information Specialist support, which is available 24/7/365 for patients, caregivers, and survivors, and support & assistance programs to patients to overcome barriers to care.

Ultimately, Color's goal in this partnership with ACS is to massively impact cancer outcomes and to give its partners control.

"There are really only two levers that make a difference in cancer cost and outcomes. The first is earlier detection and diagnosis of disease, where diagnosing a cancer at one stage earlier can save more than $50,000 per cancer case, and where the speed to diagnosis can change outcomes and costs dramatically," said Savello.

"The second is how you treat your employees when they do have cancer: the right care and strong support. Basically, when cancer is diagnosed, it becomes an uncontrolled and explosive cost to the plan, and a life-altering event for employees and their families."

The problem, she explained, is that nearly everyone has focused on the second lever, post-diagnosis to control cost, rather than managing the entire patient journey. 

"To successfully manage overall cost and outcomes, we need to rethink the way we’re addressing cancer management. The opportunity for much bigger impact comes from everything that leads up to the point that a patient first sees an oncologist, and a more holistic care model that deals with the fragmentation of our cancer care system in this country." 

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