Cigna launching provider consult service for oncology care

Cigna is launching a new provider consult service that aims to improve outcomes for patients with cancer.

The program, backed by the capabilities of the insurer's Evernorth subsidiary, allows community oncologists to connect with cancer subspecialty experts at centers designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). These connections will allow patients to benefit from the latest innovations in cancer care while also keeping their care close to home, Cigna said.

In a pilot, community oncologists had their treatment plans reviewed by experts and in 40% of cases reviewed, patients were recommended alternative tests or treatment based on new advancements in research.

The program is currently available to certain Cigna members but is being expanded to serve more members as well as clients of Evernorth's eviCore analytics platform.

The initiative is designed to ensure that patients can access these new therapies without the insurer disrupting the relationship they have with their provider, Bhuvana Sagar, M.D., a senior medical executive at Evernorth, told Fierce Healthcare.

The insurer was initially concerned about pushback from docs, but it found through the pilot that the participating physicians welcomed the additional feedback.

"Once things got going and we refined our process, we saw that physicians are actually very open to getting this done," she said. "It doesn't disrupt their workflow at all."

Patients in the pilot, meanwhile, appreciated the chance for their case to be examined by an expert without the need for travel, she said.

Through the program, Cigna uses proprietary technology to identify members who are recently diagnosed with complex cancers, such as certain types of colon cancer, lung cancer or breast cancer, and are most likely to benefit from a review. Their treatment plans are then examined by cancer subspecialty experts at one of more than 20 NCI-designated centers.

The program is designed to fit into Cigna's existing integrated care model for cancer, which includes personalized case management, mental health services and financial support.

"Our goal is to ensure our customers are receiving the best possible care," Sagar said. "Cancer is a very complex condition, and it can be very overwhelming for people going through cancer treatment."