Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and RWJ Barnabas Health has partnered with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey to launch a pilot program that provides home infusion cancer treatments for eligible patients —the first of its kind in the state.

The Horizon Home Infusion pilot program delivers oncology care to patients in the comfort of their own homes, limiting exposure to hospital settings during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Steven Libutti, director of The Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Senior Vice President of Oncology Services at RWJ Barnabas Health.

He said the goal is to look for ways to best accommodate patients given the challenges they've faced over the past 18 months with the pandemic.

"What we're hoping to achieve here for selected patients and for selected agents, that is, the therapies that those patients are receiving, to determine which patients after receiving an initial treatment in our infusion center, can receive subsequent treatments in the comfort of their home," said Libutti.

He added that safety and efficacy are first and foremost. There are specific diagnoses and specific agents on the list of approved regimens. From a patient assessment perspective, the home situation must be such that home infusion can be safely administered.

That is done by having home-infusion trained nurses go to the patient's home, and conduct a telemedicine visit for the patient and their provider in their home before enduring the infusion of the medication.

It can be tough for some patients, both financially and logistically to travel back and forth for treatment at an infusion center. Libutti if there is an option for the patient where they don't have to travel to the infusion site, there is patient and provider satisfaction in that.

The true mission is to keep care as close to home as possible. No patient should have to travel more than 15 or 20 minutes for exceptional care. "What could be closer than home?" asked Libutti.

With the pilot program, information will be gathered on patient and provider satisfaction, logistics, quality, and cost. All that will then factor into what the program will look like in its final form.

This is believed to be the first for an into-home-oncology infusion in New Jersey. But Libutti said this is not the first in the country. Since other places have successfully implemented such programs, he's confident that by working with the partners at Horizon, they will be able to come up with a program that is safe, effective, and improves the quality of care for New Jersey's cancer patients.

"We're constantly re-evaluating the types of cancers we can treat with home infusion, the types of agents we can safely deliver for home infusion and we anticipate bringing the pilot phase of the program to a close in the next six to nine months," said Libutti. Then a decision will be made as to what the program will look like going forward.

In terms of implementation of the treatment options, he said there have been treatments related to breast cancer and others.

The first infusion treatment is given at an infusion center. Subsequent treatments are given at home.

So far, 100 patients have been screened for the pilot program.

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