The power of a proactive approach
A phone call can be life-changing.
A patient at Verdi Oncology—a single mother who’d recently been diagnosed with advanced cancer—was about to sit down with her college-bound daughter to break the devastating news that her college fund would have to be used instead to pay for expensive cancer medications. That’s when the phone rang.
“Hi, I’m Beth with Verdi Oncology,” said the warm voice on the phone. “I’m here to help you get financial assistance for your treatment.”
The patient was stunned.
“There was just silence on the other end of the phone,” says Beth Huneycutt, then a Financial Counselor at Verdi Oncology. “That happens a lot. People aren’t used to you calling them and telling them you want to help them pay for things!”
But that’s exactly what Beth and her team of financial counselors do, and AssistPoint enables them to do it.
“Before calling this patient, I used AssistPoint to see what assistance was available to her,” says Beth. “When I called, I was able to explain that I had found financial assistance she qualified for and all she had to do was give her consent for me to apply on her behalf. She broke down in tears and told me now her daughter would be able to go to college. She wouldn’t have to have the conversation she’d been dreading. She cried. I cried. We cried together. Last I heard, she was on treatment and doing great, and her daughter had gone off to school as planned. Getting financial assistance made a huge impact on their lives.”
Beth has a lot of stories like that. Now a Revenue Cycle Manager overseeing Verdi Oncology’s Financial Counseling, Prior Authorization, and Physician In-Office Dispensing (IOD) teams, Beth makes sure every patient is proactively assessed for financial assistance.
“Every patient who’s scheduled for treatment is worked up. Their entire chart is reviewed. What medication are they getting? What insurance do they have? What assistance programs do they qualify for? All of it. Every single patient treatment is done.”
That’s no small task considering Beth and her financial counseling team (Melissa, Rachel, April, and Cheree, all of whom, Beth says, were born for the job) are responsible for three separate clinics: one in Dallas, one in Nashville, and one in Indiana. By Beth’s estimate, between 50% and 75% of their patients struggle to afford care.
Without AssistPoint—the software platform from Annexus Health that empowers healthcare provider organizations to proactively identify and manage financial assistance and other access services—working up every patient just wouldn’t be possible, no matter how dedicated and hardworking the financial counselors are. Beth knows this from experience.
“In my previous financial counseling job before I came to Verdi, we did everything manually,” she says. “I had a thick binder filled with brochures from drug reps and spreadsheets I created with typed information and phone numbers for all the different manufacturers and foundations. I’d have to call and apply for patient financial assistance over the phone. They’d fax me something and I’d have to fax it back. There was just so much back-and-forth, and I’d have to spend so much time on just one patient.”
Even with Beth’s trusted binder, her expertise, and the support of an excellent manager, there were only so many hours in a day.
“When you’re a financial counselor, it’s more than a job to you. You’re doing it because you truly want to meet every single patient’s needs, and it breaks your heart when you can’t. We just didn’t have the time to work up every patient using our manual process. If there had been a way to streamline our workflow, I could have taken care of a lot more patients.”
So, when Beth first learned of AssistPoint during an interview for a position at Verdi Oncology, she was thrilled.
“When they told me about AssistPoint, I got so excited,” she recalls. “I went home and talked my poor husband’s ear off. I was like, ‘They have this program called AssistPoint and you can do everything with it!’”
Needless to say, Beth took the job, in part because she was eager to see how AssistPoint could transform her process for managing patient assistance and help her make an impact on more patients and families.
The AssistPoint difference
AssistPoint simplifies, streamlines, and speeds up the process of managing financial assistance and other access services for healthcare provider organizations, infusion centers, and pharmacies. Users can rapidly search a comprehensive library of assistance options at the click of a button, quickly apply and enroll eligible patients into individual assistance opportunities, and actively monitor award fulfillment to ensure utilization and treatment adherence—all within a single, user-friendly platform. It also includes a powerful suite of real-time reports Beth absolutely loves because they help her stay on top of all patient assistance activity within her organization.
“When I got to Verdi, the other financial counselors and I decided to really make the most of AssistPoint,” says Beth. “It’s an amazing tool! Our entire team uses AssistPoint for everything, and I mean everything. We’re in it all day. We call it our financial counseling bible. If you’re going to work here as a financial counselor, you have to use AssistPoint. That’s it.”
One of Beth’s favorite features is the Journey tab, which makes it easy to quickly see all of the financial assistance activity for an individual patient. “It’s great because it puts all the information for a patient right in front of you. Let’s say one financial counselor is working with a patient and then takes a day off. With AssistPoint, another financial counselor can just open the Journey tab and pick up right where the first person left off.
“Another thing I love about AssistPoint is the Patient Tagging feature,” says Beth. “It saves us so much time! We use the tagging feature for all kinds of things, but mostly to tag that we’ve received the patient’s consent to apply for financial assistance for the next year so we don’t have to go searching through our notes, trying to figure out whether they said yes or not, or try to get ahold of the patient again. The tags make it so we only have to call the patient once, mark their response, and keep moving forward.”
Time-saving features like tagging are particularly important to Beth because they empower her team to take a truly proactive approach to financial assistance and work up every single patient before they ever receive a bill they can’t afford to pay.
“Digital integration with AssistPoint saves so much time too,” says Beth.
In addition to seamlessly integrating with practice management systems, electronic health records, and pharmacy management systems, AssistPoint is also digitally integrated with patient support programs offered by an ever-growing list of Annexus Health’s life science and foundation partners. For digitally integrated patient support programs, enrollment is completed through a standardized digital form within AssistPoint that is automatically prepopulated with patient demographic information from the practice management system.
“Digital integration alone saves us about 30 minutes per enrollment,” says Beth. “It really adds up.”
Having the time to proactively work up every patient is important because it’s often not immediately obvious that a patient is in need of financial assistance or that they’ll qualify for it.
“We had a 19-year-old patient who was diagnosed with a pretty rare cancer come in, and the drug she needed was pretty expensive,” Beth recalls. “I was working with her and her parents and when they told me their income, I thought, ‘Oh no, they’re not going to be able to get assistance because they make too much.’”
But with AssistPoint, she dug deeper. Household income was only part of the story. It turned out the family had nine children, and with that information, Beth was able to find assistance the patient qualified for.
“The daughter might not have been able to get treatment if not for that, but we got her the assistance and she got the treatment and made a full recovery.”
For Beth, times like this—when she’s able to find assistance for a patient—are incredibly rewarding. But when there’s no available assistance, it’s devastating. Since early in her career, she’s made a habit of keeping sticky notes on her desk with the names of patients who still need assistance as a reminder to herself to never stop looking for a way to help them.
Now with AssistPoint, Beth has more than just reminders; she has tools to actively track patients who are waiting for funds to open up and to enroll them as soon as possible. When funds are not immediately available to a patient, Beth can add them to the Assistance Watchlist within AssistPoint, which alerts her team within 5 minutes of a fund opening up.
“The financial counselors and I all get the fund status alert, and our protocol is that whoever sees it first stops whatever they’re doing and applies immediately. Within 20-30 minutes, we were able to enroll 7 or 8 patients before the fund closed again.”
AssistPoint also allows Beth and her team to see the remaining financial assistance award balance for each patient so they can re-enroll them or find new funding before the award runs out, helping the patients to avoid gaps in treatment.
“It’s absolutely necessary to be able to get in there and see just how much is left,” she says. “That way, we can see when someone is running low on funds and try to get them more funding proactively instead of the patient finding out at the pharmacy at the last minute that they’re out of funding and can’t fill their prescription.”
AssistPoint is more than a platform to Beth; it’s a full financial assistance support system.
“The people at Annexus Health are truly amazing,” says Beth. “Every single person I’ve dealt with has been wonderful. AssistPoint is one of the easiest software programs I’ve ever used, but whenever I do have questions, I reach out to the account management team and they’re always so, so helpful. We consider our Annexus Health account manager to be a part of our financial counseling family. We love her!”
Beth also loves that AssistPoint makes it possible to do her job remotely, as the platform is Web based and can be securely accessed from anywhere. From her home in the mountains of northeast Tennessee, she’s able to help patients at three different clinics around the country.
“AssistPoint is exactly what you need to do a remote financial counseling job effectively,” she says. “It puts everything you need at your fingertips. You don’t have to get up and walk around to try to find information somewhere. You just have to sit down and sign in.”
Why your organization should consider AssistPoint
To all the financial counselors out there who aren’t yet using AssistPoint, Beth has some words of wisdom:
“I know some people might be attached to their spreadsheets and afraid of having to learn a new technology, but you have to ask yourself, ‘What’s more important? My spreadsheet or helping more patients?’ Obviously, your patients are more important to you. Sometimes you’ve got to let things go in order to grow. And AssistPoint is so easy! Why not make things easier for yourself and your patients?
“And for healthcare provider organizations worried about the cost of AssistPoint, you have to understand that you’re going to bring in so much more money through financial assistance collections with AssistPoint that you’ll more than cover the cost. Yes, it’s an investment, but you’re going to make the money back and more, so your organization will actually do better financially. So, if that’s your argument, it’s not a good one. Plus, you’re going to be able to secure more financial assistance for more of your patients so they can get their treatment.”
At the end of the day, that’s what it all comes down to for Beth.
“Your patients will be better able to heal because they’re not sitting there worried about finances. Instead, they can concentrate on their health. That’s why AssistPoint needs to be your go-to. It needs to be where you go every single time because it’s going to help things run so much smoother and so much faster. AssistPoint will help you help a lot more patients, and that’s your ultimate goal as a financial counselor: to help as many patients as you possibly can.”