California-based Carrum Health, a digital marketplace allowing employers to purchase bundled healthcare services, announced in September that it joined the White House-led Cancer Moonshot CancerX initiative, uniting with cross-disciplinary stakeholders to drive innovation in cancer care.
Deirdre Saulet, Carrum’s market vice president for oncology, sat down with MobiHealthNews to discuss the employer-focused specialty care platform’s role in the initiative.
MobiHealthNews: What is Carrum’s role in CancerX?
Deirdre Saulet: Carrum is a partner in the CancerX initiative. We decided to become a CancerX partner for, I would say, the big reason is, of course, we are very supportive and want to help make progress on the Cancer Moonshot goals.
The real benefit and advantage and really exciting part about being part of the CancerX membership is we get access to and get to tap into and get to be part of this collective of really smart people who live, breathe and think about cancer care, from federal agencies to other digital health and tech startups like us, to providers and hospitals and community oncology, to, of course, patient advocacy groups and just thinking about being all at the same table, taking our collective ideas, perspectives, lessons learned and innovations. It’s just very exciting to be part of something that I think actually has the potential to make meaningful progress on these goals of decreasing cancer deaths and improving the lives and experiences of people dealing with cancer.
MHN: How will the company work with the initiative to do those things?
Saulet: There’s a few different ways that we will be involved. The first is being an active participant and providing a lot of input. It is still early days for CancerX, but I have been so impressed with how much they want to hear from all of us about our goals, our mission, and the specific problems or questions that we really think are critical to solve when it comes to cancer care.
So we’ve been doing that through virtual meetings and in-person meetings. We’ll be in Tampa in a couple of weeks, and they regularly ask us for input. So I will say they’ve been just a fantastic leader of this, really trying to understand the different groups and what we’re bringing to the table.
There are also a few more hands-on opportunities to become involved in projects that we’ll be launching in the next few weeks. So we should have more by the end of the year on like the specifics of some of these projects. But from what we know so far, and like the real big opportunities, there will be first off to be involved in research and evidence generation.
That, for example, could be let’s take a specific issue or problem set, like financial toxicity and the enormous financial pressures people have to deal with, and as a group, doing some best practice research, market research, understanding the root causes of what’s happening, what is sort of driving this enormous impact and then start researching solutions.
Coming off of that, there are also accelerator projects, which, there too, how do we take an idea, like how are we leveraging digital health innovations and how are we thinking as a group about using those to drive value and improve the patient experience? So those will be much more actively working on solutions and collaboration to problem-solve and measure outcomes. Again, we’re not entirely sure of the specific question that the first accelerator will be involved in, but we’re very excited because there’ll be a good opportunity for us to plug in there.
And the other really exciting thing will be larger demonstration projects, and those will be, from my understanding so far, how we collectively use the power of the public and the private sector, the folks who are involved and really solve problems and implement solutions at scale.
So, CancerX kicked off the first one here. It’s a data sprint to really drive better quality and availability of real-world data in oncology. It’s a huge gap we have in cancer care. So it is just very exciting because I think there’s a lot of opportunity for us to both present the problems, the issues, the questions and then work with this diverse group of stakeholders to figure out, OK, so what do we do about it? How do we actually think about wrapping our arms around solutions here?
MHN: Carrum works with self-funded employers. Where is the connection between Carrum’s offerings and what’s needed within CancerX?
Saulet: When I think about the connection points, there are two big ones. And when we think about what are self-insured employers and what our employees and dependents really want. I think the first one is obvious, but it still needs to be said: How do we do a better job delivering more person-centered care across someone’s entire cancer journey? So, from suspicious findings – I had something abnormal on my mammogram – to diagnosis through treatment, then into survivorship or end-of-life care.
I think we all know cancer is complex. It is so confusing. So, for us, and what we really try to do at Carrum – and I think there’s so much opportunity to bring more stakeholders from CancerX into solutions here – how are we creating a system that gets people to the right diagnosis, the right treatment, at the right time, in the right place? And that is going to involve the right doctors, health systems, community partners, and digital health tools to really make this experience as easy as humanly possible, which I know it’s not easy to do, obviously, in cancer, but again, I think there is a lot of potential to think about delivering the best care and also all the best wraparound supportive care resources, which employers care so much about.
The second big one, and where I do think Carrum adds a very unique and valuable perspective, is a bit more on the payment reform side. So I’d say sort of the second biggest issue is driving “higher value cancer care,” and value, of course, means we’re taking quality and cost into account.
At Carrum, it really does mean how we are thinking about total costs. Not just the cost of one specific drug, but really over the course of someone’s months or years of dealing with cancer, what are the total costs to the system? What are the total costs to those who pay for it? So, for us, our clients are self-insured employers. Also, what are the costs to the individual, to the person, to the family that are dealing with cancer?
Employers in this country shoulder a tremendous amount of healthcare costs and a tremendous amount of cancer costs. Cancer has been their leading cost condition for the past two years. It’s overtaken musculoskeletal as the biggest condition driving their costs. So, there is a whole lot of willingness and motivation, quite honestly, to understand what is high value in cancer care.
MHN: So, what are the next steps?
Saulet: The next steps are we get to go down to Tampa. We have a future of cancer care meeting in person there. That is where we’re going to learn what the first accelerator projects are going to be. So it’s going to be understanding where, sort of as a group, we’re focusing and prioritizing because I think that’s going to be the hard part. This is a big group of folks, and there are a lot of problems to solve. So I think it’s going to be really thoughtful as a group figuring out how we prioritize where we start and then getting some working groups started to tackle those issues.