Obtaining prior authorization (PA) before treatment is becoming increasingly burdensome in oncology, especially in radiation oncology. Here, we describe the impact of a strategic novel operational PA redesign to shorten authorization time and to improve patient access to cancer care at a large United States academic proton therapy center. We ask whether such a redesign may be replicable and adoptable across oncology centers.
Our PA redesign strategy was based on a 3-tiered approach. Specifically, we (1) held payors accountable to legally backed timelines, (2) leveraged expertise on insurance policies and practices, and (3) updated the submission, appeal writing, and planning procedures for PA. Metrics were compared at the following 3 time points: 6 months before, at phase-in, and at 6 months after intervention.
In analyzing the impact of improving PA access to care, the percentage of approvals for commercial proton beam therapy improved by an absolute 30.6% postintervention (P < .001). The proportion of commercially insured patients treated with proton beam therapy also increased by 6.2%, and the number of new starts rose by 11.7 patients/mo. Overall patient census increased by 13 patients/d. Median authorization time was 1 week, and 90% of surveyed providers reported reduced PA burden and improved patient care.
This is the first validated, comprehensive operational strategy to improve access to cancer therapy while reducing the burden of PA. This novel approach may be helpful for addressing barriers to PA in medical and surgical oncology because the redesign is predicated on laws that regulate PA across disciplines.