HealthFebruary 20, 2024

The changing face of cancer requires care managers take a fresh look at digital engagement

As cancer shows up in younger populations, payer care management teams should leverage the untapped potential of digital engagement strategies to improve outcomes. 

Cancer prevention took a major blow early in the COVID-19 pandemic, largely because of decreased screening. Cancers with higher survival rates saw a 50% drop in diagnoses in April of 2020 while those with lower survival rates, like pancreatic and lung, saw new diagnoses fall by about 20% and 40% respectively. By July, diagnoses of all types except prostate had returned to expected levels, but there are still 10 million people in the US alone who missed screenings and need to catch up. 

As cancer rates rise in some surprising new populations, payer care managers have become increasingly critical players in promoting cancer prevention and employing digital engagement strategies to improve access to screenings and get patients on track to better health.

The shifting role of health plans in cancer prevention

The role of payer care managers has only become more important as cancer appears with more frequency in younger populations. Effective care management is critical to cancer prevention, early detection, and efficient planning and integration of access to care. Payers are tapping into advanced digital engagement strategies, personalized outreach, and working to understand new and emerging trends in cancer diagnosis.

Critical cancer prevention statistics

To make a meaningful impact on cancer screening rates and prevention, care managers will first need to understand how trends have shifted since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Rates are rising in younger populations

The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that between 2010 and 2019, rates of cancer diagnoses have been rising for people under 50. The most significant increase was in gastrointestinal cancers, including colon cancer and cancer of the appendix, which increased 15%.

These shifts have led to calls for awareness of cancer prevention and early detection in people as young as 20. 

Young women and people of color are at particular risk

Cancer rates are rising quickly for young women. Numbers rose an average of .67% annually between 2010 and 2019 for women under 50.  

Weight and smoking contribute to cancer risk

Being overweight is associated with an increased risk of 13 types of cancers, including breast (in women who have gone through menopause), gallbladder, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, pancreatic cancer, thyroid, and multiple myeloma. Being underweight can also pose a risk—Underweight Indian women were found to have a higher probability of developing breast cancer.

Lung cancer screening rates sit at only 5.8% as of 2022, with some regions falling as low as 1% in the United States. Lung cancer is the leading cause of deaths from cancer globally for both men and women, with smoking being the leading cause and responsible for about 85% of cases. 

Care management best practices for effective cancer prevention

Positive outcomes for cancer prevention programs require payor care management programs that stress early detection and preventive screenings, support high-risk individuals, and encourage partnership in overall care.

If someone has an untreated condition that’s starting to cause a problem, proper care management can help step in before they have more significant health issues.
  Mitch Collier  

Create a culture of improvement

If your care management program and tools haven’t been updated since before 2019, they likely will not keep up with modern trends in cancer and screening options. Effective care management requires education that is current and tailored to the cultural needs and sensitivities of individual patients. Prioritize tools that support measurable outcomes, modern communication, and ongoing support for your patients and users. 

Center today’s patient

Effective care management means meeting patients, all patients, where they are and focusing on whole person health.

The cancer risk profile of the modern patient is shifting, so programs should no longer only focus on older patients—instead looking to understand a patient’s individual risk, regardless of age or background.

Focus on equity

Equity in cancer screening means facilitating access to the procedures, professionals, and resources needed to make healthy choices and lifestyle adjustments—regardless of education, race, physical or mental abilities, income, or ethnicity. 

Effective care management programs will acknowledge and integrate social determinants of health to improve access and screening rates in underserved and high-risk populations. These programs should incorporate content and recommendations that are personalized to the patient’s needs. Allow patients to self-select content and educational options that align with their abilities and demographics—patients living in rural areas might need different exercise recommendations than those in urban, and patients who are older or less mobile will benefit from different content than more able-bodied.

Leverage digital engagement

Digital engagement can be the key to some of the most stubborn hurdles to effective care management and cancer prevention. While almost half the world lacks access to a physician, 85% have a smartphone, and over 90% have a mobile phone.

Personalized digital engagement strategies allow care management programs to scale, providing information about screening, early detection, and lifestyle changes at the patient’s convenience. Digital care management can target high-risk patients and coordinate with the resources they do have available.

Today’s payer care management programs are uniquely positioned to play a key role in improving cancer screening and prevention—a trend that’s only likely to increase in the future. 

  Learn more About Emmi  

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