Already practiced in some European countries
Home-based chemotherapy dates from at least the 1980s in the medical literature and is practiced in some European countries.
A 2018 randomized study of adjuvant treatment with capecitabine and oxaliplatin for stage II/III colon cancer in Denmark, where home-based care has been practiced for the past 2 years and is growing in use, concluded that “it might be a valuable alternative to treatment at an outpatient clinic.”
However, in the study, there was no difference in quality of life between the home and outpatient settings, which is somewhat surprising, inasmuch as a major appeal to receiving chemotherapy at home is that it is less disruptive compared to receiving it in a hospital or clinic, which requires travel.
Also, chemo at home “may be resource intensive” and have a “lower throughput of patients due to transportation time,” cautioned the Danish investigators, who were from Herlev and Gentofte Hospital.
A 2015 review called home chemo “a safe and patient‐centered alternative to hospital‐ and outpatient‐based service.” Jenna Evans, PhD, McMaster University, Toronto, Canada, and lead author of that review, says there are two major barriers to infusion chemotherapy in homes.
One is inadequate resources in the community, such as oncology-trained nurses to deliver treatment, and the other is perceptions of safety and quality, including among healthcare providers.
COVID-19 might prompt more chemo at home, said Evans, a health policy expert, in an email to Medscape Medical News. “It is not unusual for change of this type and scale to require a seismic event to become more mainstream,” she argued.
Reimbursement for home-based chemo is usually the same as for chemo in a free-standing infusion suite, says Cassandra Redmond, PharmD, MBA, director of pharmacy, Penn Home Infusion Therapy.
Private insurers and Medicare cover a subset of infused medications at home, but coverage is limited. “The opportunity now is to expand these initiatives ... to include other cancer therapies,” she said about coverage.
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