CVS study: Using evidence-based guidelines may decrease total cost of cancer care

Adhering to evidence-based guidelines in cancer care can lead to notable cost reductions, according to two new studies from CVS Health.

Researchers at CVS studied the relationship between total cost of care and the use of National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines to direct care and found savings among both breast cancer and colon cancer patients. The studies, released at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's meeting earlier this month, build on a similar analysis among lung cancer patients.

In both studies, the researchers found that using NCCN guidelines drove significant declines in total cost of care.

"Evidence-based medicine does result in improvement in quality of life," Shirisha Reddy, M.D., senior medical director at CVS Health and an author on both studies, told Fierce Healthcare. "There's a lot of external data that supports that."

The first study included 937 patients with colon cancer. Among Medicare beneficiaries, concordance with NCCN guidelines was linked to a 33% reduction in total cost per care per member per month. The results were less significant among commercially insured patients.

In the second study, the researchers retrospectively looked at 315 patients with breast cancer. They found total cost of care reductions for patients treated in ways consistent with NCCN across multiple insurance types, including 25% among fully insured commercial patients, 28% among self-insured commercial patients and 43% in Medicare.

This included notable decreases in administered chemotherapy spend as well as outpatient care between Jan. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2020.

Reddy said while the results put a spotlight on the potential benefits of evidence-based care, findings like this should also be considered as the industry continues to push for value-based models.

Value-based care's end goal is to provide the best care for the patient at the best price, and evidence-based guidelines can be a key tool to get there, she said. For example, these guidelines can help patients find the right course of treatment sooner rather than "hopscotching" between different options, she said.

"It really highlights the importance of using evidence-based guidelines when we're treating cancer patients," Reddy said.