Crescent Healthcare: Robert Funari, Chairman & CEO

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When a patient needs infusion therapy for an acute or chronic condition, hospital stays and scheduling can sometimes have an almost greater impact on the individual than the disease itself. Crescent Healthcare began as a pharmacy specializing in medications for infusion therapy in 1992. The founder, however, soon recognized that infusion therapy services were as much a need as the drugs in question. Specifically, services were needed in more convenient locations for patients outside the hospital setting.

Crescent is now a leading company in the alternate site infusion market. Patients suffering from diseases such as immune deficiencies, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, malnutrition, infections, cancer, and bleeding diseases such as hemophilia often rely on infusion therapies to manage or treat their conditions.

The company has about 600 employees and does business in nine locations, eight in California and one in Florida. Robert Funari, Chairman and CEO, and his investors acquired majority ownership in the company in 2004.

A Strategy of Partnerships

“About 18 months ago we launched a new strategy for our company,” says Funari. “The thrust of that strategy was the formation of partnerships with health plans, hospitals and medical groups.

Traditionally, infusion therapy sales involved calling on hospitals and physician groups on a day-by-day basis, looking for referrals of individual patients who would benefit by alternate site treatment settings. The formation of partnerships has a much greater impact on the cost of healthcare for health plans, hospitals, and medical groups.

The new strategy was tested with the formation of a partnership between Crescent Healthcare and Anthem Blue Cross, the largest health plan provider in the state of California. “We made a commitment to Anthem Blue Cross that if they would enter into an exclusive relationship with us, we would provide IVIG (intravenous immune globulin) therapy to all their members that needed it, and would deliver to them a $3.5 million savings in medical costs,” says Funari. “After two years of operation, we have gone back and looked at the results and believe that we have saved Anthem Blue Cross over $7.5 million.”

The company has taken what was learned from that partnership and applied it to their efforts to build further partnerships with hospitals and medical groups. A partnership was formed with Scripps Healthcare System in San Diego in mid-2009 that has already been able to generate $650,000 worth of savings in medical costs after only five months in operation. “We are clearly outperforming our commitment. The Scripps leadership is very pleased,” says Funari.

Delivering Infusion Therapy in the Best Interest of the Patient

“The number one benefit to delivering this therapy outside the hospital is that it allows the patient to continue their normal life functions,” says Funari. “Obviously, if somebody is hospitalized, they don’t have the ability to work, to take care of their family, to take care of their normal life functions. If they are receiving therapy in an alternate site setting, they can typically continue to work or to carry out their more normal life routines.”

Another benefit is that patients who receive this care outside the hospital are not exposed to common hospital-based infections and other problems that people who are in the hospital have. “There’s a bit of a safety issue, as well,” says Funari.

Crescent’s team members work with the patient and their physician to determine the most appropriate location for therapy for each patient. This might be the patient’s home, the physician’s clinic, or an ambulatory treatment center. The Crescent team also focuses on educating the patient about their infusion therapy, how to care for infusion sites, and what to watch for as far as side effects and potential problems that might be associated with their therapies.

Transforming Healthcare

While the cost effectiveness of alternate site infusion therapy services and the benefits to the patient have been proven, Funari says the industry, as a whole, has a long way to go. Medicare patients do not currently have this benefit, for instance. “Crescent is helping to educate legislators and people in government. It provides a meaningful benefit to our seniors to receive infusion therapy in alternate site settings and would bring significant benefit not only to the patients, but would significantly reduce the overall cost of healthcare for these individuals.”

“I think as with any change that you implement, it takes time for people to recognize and appreciate the difference in the way you bring value to your customers. There’s a need to consistently communicate and demonstrate the new strategy,” says Funari.

“We are committed to developing innovative approaches in the way that pharmaceutical therapy is delivered to patients and managed in alternate site settings. We think there are huge opportunities to improve the level of appropriateness and cost effectiveness in the way that these therapies are managed and delivered,” says Funari. “We have a lot of evidence that we can have a very significant impact on reducing medical costs while improving the quality of outcome. We see ourselves of being a part of transforming the delivery of healthcare in this country.”

-by Tracy Million Simmons

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