September 09, 2021
Medical professionals across the country stress the importance of detecting chronic diseases early to ensure patients receive timely and effective treatments.
To make some screening processes more accessible, Independence Blue Cross will provide Medicare Advantage members with in-home collection kits through a collaboration with Labcorp.
The tests available through the kits allow Medicare Advantage members to screen for diabetes, kidney disease and colon cancer from the comfort of their homes. People living with diabetes will be able to use one of the tests to monitor and manage their blood sugar levels, as well.
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. But the overall rate of people being diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer each year has dropped overall since the mid-1980s, due in part to the fact that more people are getting screened and changing lifestyle-related risk factors accordingly.
Approximately 30 million Americans have chronic kidney disease, which often has no symptoms, but nearly 90% have not been diagnosed, according to the National Kidney Foundation. CKD progression can be slowed or halted if the disease is caught in its early stages.
As the country continues to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, the at-home collection kits will be crucial to ensuring routine health checks don't fall by the wayside, said Dr. Heidi Syropoulos, medical director of government markets at Independence.
"Many health care services can be delivered through telemedicine, but there are times when physical screenings are necessary to identify conditions in their early stages and that’s where these home collection kits come in," Syropoulos said. "Offering our most at-risk Medicare Advantage members home collection kits to screen for things like colon cancer and kidney disease and to manage diabetes can help them take control of their health."
The kits will include three types of Labcorp tests that are used by physicians and hospitals across the country:
•HbA1c test: A common blood test used to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes, HbA1c tests also monitor how people living with diabetes are managing their blood sugar levels.
•Occult blood, fecal, immunoassay test: This test checks for blood in stool and is used to screen for colorectal cancer, as well as to diagnose other conditions that cause bleeding in the digestive tract.
•Urine albumin test: These kits will screen for and detect early kidney disease in people with diabetes or other risk factors, such as high blood pressure.
Medicare Advantage members wishing to receive in-home collection kits must receive authorization from their physicians, who will order the kits to individuals' homes at no additional cost. The kits will arrive first class from the U.S. Postal Service and will include a prepaid return label and envelope/box for them to send samples back. Labcorp will process the tests and forward the results to members' physicians, who will contact individuals when they arrive.
"Home collections make it easier for patients throughout Philadelphia, and the country, to receive safe, convenient testing that may be critical to their overall health and well-being," said Dr. Deborah Sesok-Pizzini, of Labcorp Diagnostics. "Labcorp and Independence are building on our already strong foundation to provide one more option to help physicians make confident testing and treatment decisions."
Dr. Anne Mongiu, a colorectal surgeon with Yale Medicine, said in-home testing is better than not screening for colon cancer but offered a key distinction between what may be offered in the collection kits and a colonoscopy
"Home tests are really for detecting cancer — or early cancer — or maybe a large bleeding polyp," Mongiu told YaleMedicine.org. "Colonoscopy, on the other hand, not only looks for cancer, but it can also prevent cancer by removing polyps that, if left alone, could turn into a cancer. I tell my patients that a colonoscopy is like yard maintenance, where the team comes out to not only examine the lawn, but also to spray all the weeds so they can’t grow up and ruin it."