As change and uncertainty continue to shape the healthcare industry, infusion centers and their leaders must continuously seek opportunities to champion the high-quality care they provide to their patients.
As government, payor, and provider stakeholders seek to identify and promote high quality and cost-effective care settings, it is imperative for the infusion center community to invest the time and commitment towards developing industry best practices and standards. Fortunately, the importance of developing standards of practice is the ongoing focus of the National Infusion Center Association (NICA), the leading voice of freestanding infusion centers in the nation.
Most infusion center leaders and clinicians would likely assert that their practices provide the utmost in patient care and consistently operate at peak performance and effectiveness. A lot of hard work goes into maintaining a busy infusion clinic, and certainly each and every infusion center provider has great reasons to be proud of in their day-to-day practice. Consequently, “why does the infusion center community need standards?” may appear a natural question to many providers, and it is indeed an important question to answer.
First, industry standards support the ability of individual providers or groups of providers to ensure that their practices comprehensively address all aspects of patient care and operations. Oftentimes this extends not only to patient management but also record keeping, inventory management, information technology, and other important, but easy-to-overlook, minutiae that can make a real difference to overall care.
This should not frighten providers by any means! On the contrary, standards allow providers to check in an organized fashion that they have considered all of the complex inputs that serve as the foundation of effective patient care. A readily available set of industry standards, regularly maintained and updated by a leading professional association, further spares individual providers from the difficulty of developing their own piecemeal standards by reconciling conflicting sets of standards developed for adjacent industries
Second, industry standards provide communities of providers an opportunity to present the unique traits and advantages of their setting compared to others. Hospitals, specialty and infusion pharmacies, and durable medical equipment suppliers are just a few of the provider communities that often touch the same patient lives as infusion centers. These providers already often adhere to rigorous and well-established standards that highlight the quality of care these providers are able to deliver and consistently maintain. In some instances, standards among these providers have also served as the basis for industry and provider bench-marking that support measurable means to compare performance, patient outcomes, and safety. As healthcare becomes increasingly data- and outcomes-driven, it’s important that infusion centers not go unrecognized or under-recognized for lack of standards.
Lastly, many policymaker and payor stakeholders are actively seeking standards to adopt in order to ensure the quality of care received by patients covered under government-sponsored programs and commercial health plans. Many individual clinicians are likely already familiar with the important role the myriad practice standards used in health system settings play in qualifying hospital programs and practitioners. Specialty and home infusion pharmacies are also frequently required to meet certain standards as part of accreditation programs that serve as an important component of credentialing these providers for access to payor networks. Even a growing number of pharmaceutical manufacturers are becoming increasingly interested in the practice standards of their provider partners as the role of health outcomes and patient care performance of drugs and other therapeutics continues to gain recognition.
These are only a few of the ways standards can provide value to infusion center providers individually and the infusion center community as a whole. As the health care landscape continues to undergo change, it will become increasingly critical that the infusion center community find effective ways to facilitate optimal patient outcomes and means to communicate its best practices. While this may sound like a daunting task, the infusion center community benefits from tremendously talented and motivated professionals that care deeply about its future. By collaborating and sharing critically important feedback, individual infusion center providers can develop a unique set of practice standards that effectively support the uniquely positioned patient care provided by infusion centers.
Eric Ho is the Chief Pharmacy Officer and Senior Vice President for Paragon Healthcare, Inc., a company dedicated to making healthcare easier for patients and physicians.