The COVID-19 pandemic kept members of the home infusion industry from meeting in person for two years, but also highlighted the field’s strengths and brought public awareness of home infusion’s potential in the health care continuum, Connie Sullivan, president and CEO of the National Home Infusion Association (NHIA), told members and other attendees recently at the organization’s annual conference.
“It’s inspiring to see how the home and alternate-site infusion community rose to the challenges,” Sullivan said at the conference, which ran March 12-16 in Nashville, its first in-person session since 2019. More than 1,200 people and 110 companies attended. “The good news is some stakeholders have developed a new appreciation for home infusion providers and the solutions you provide,” she said.
The agency said in a press release that health systems saw a 700% rise in home infusion patients during the public health emergency, including those who received monoclonal antibody therapy at home to treat COVID-19. The industry is predicted to triple in size in the coming years and see annual revenues top $62 billion by 2030.
There are also opportunities for home infusion to help address health disparities because it can improve treatment access for patients in rural areas, in diverse communities and for those with transportation issues.
But there are challenges, including payment and reimbursement gaps, supply chain issues, and a need to win doctors and health systems over to home infusion, participants said.
Dr. Neilanjan Nandi, a gastroenterologist at the University of Pennsylvania, said that seeing his patients thrive while receiving home and alternate-site infusions of biologics during the pandemic helped convince him of its importance.
“Home infusion is the epitome of patient-centric care,” he said.
Legislatively, NHIA is focused on the Preserving Patient Access to Home Infusion Act, which has broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
The bill would “fix” the home infusion therapy services benefit by requiring the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to pay providers for professional services each day a drug is administered, remove the need to have a skilled professional present for billing and acknowledge pharmacy professional services.
Other areas of focus include addressing the fact that CMS did not finalize its interpretation of “appropriate for use in the home” as it applies to some external infusion pumps when it issued its durable medical equipment final rule in December. The association is also speaking out about unregulated businesses promoting infusions. Recent successes include updating outdated national coverage determinations for parenteral and enteral nutrition.
“We’re taking on the whole system strategically, one law at a time,” Sullivan said as she described NHIA’s strategy.
The association is also focusing on gathering data and encouraging providers to share their experiences in order to buoy support from Medicare and private payers.
The 2023 annual conference will be held March 25-29 in Washington, D.C.