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J Oncol Pract. 2013 Sep;9(5):e241-7. doi: 10.1200/JOP.2012.000871. Epub 2013 May 21.

Documenting the benefits and cost savings of a large multistate cancer pathway program from a payer's perspective.

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University of Texas at Austin, Austin; and University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX.



Clinical pathways are viewed as valuable practice tools leading to presumed cost savings. CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield partnering with P4 Pathways implemented a multistate oncology clinical pathways program in 2008. This is the first comprehensive evaluation to our knowledge of a pathways program implemented on a broad scale.


This study used a retrospective single-group, pretest-post-test design. Data representing preclinical pathways (year -1) and 2 years after program initiation (years +1 and +2) were obtained from claims data. Participating sites with ≥one claim for breast, lung, or colorectal cancer treatment from each year were included in the evaluation. Compliance was defined as site attainment of prespecified annual thresholds for the use of chemotherapy and supportive care. Savings were determined by comparing per-patient changes in drug and hospital costs through year +2 with the projected annual expenditure increases of 12% and 7%, respectively.


Forty-six sites representing 4,713 patients met inclusion criteria. The unadjusted site compliance rate for chemotherapy was 83% and 54% for years +1 and +2, respectively; supportive care site compliance was 74% for both years. Per-patient drug costs increased from $16,494 in year -1 to $16,906 in year +2 (P=.587), whereas hospitalization costs decreased from $2,502 to $1,064 (P=.004). Compared with projected cost increases, pathways resulted in $10.3 million in savings by participant sites ($7.0 million from drugs and $3.3 million from hospitalizations) or $30.9 million when extrapolated to the entire health plan.


Broadly implemented clinical pathways can achieve reasonable physician compliance, resulting in substantial cost savings.

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