Spectrum Health, HHS partner to expand access to monoclonal antibody therapy

Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital. Courtesy BHSH System

Spectrum Health, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is expanding access to COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy (mAb) to reach more individuals, especially those in underserved and disadvantaged communities.

In addition to treating patients at the Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital COVID-19 Infusion Clinic, mAb treatment will be available at most Spectrum Health emergency departments for eligible patients seeking care.

On March 17, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it was investing $150 million to increase access to mAb therapy for high-risk patients in underserved and disadvantaged communities across the country. With support from KPMG LLP, HHS is developing new prototype models for expanding access to mAb treatment and leveraging an existing network of health care partners that have the experience and equipment necessary to provide the therapy.

Spectrum Health is among the first health care partners to join this national effort to equitably expand access to monoclonal antibodies and has been a national leader in policy, education and dissemination of this therapy.

“Spectrum Health is pleased to be part of this incredible collaboration to expand our monoclonal antibody program in West Michigan, particularly to our most vulnerable populations,” said Chad Tuttle, senior vice president, Spectrum Health West Michigan operations. “Also, by offering the treatment in our emergency departments, we can treat patients in our regional communities as they seek medical care in the early stages of COVID-19. This treatment may be life-changing for our patients, and we want to make it as accessible as possible.”

Spectrum Health is one of seven other provider organizations with 18 infusion sites sponsored by HHS as part of the federal effort to help end COVID-19 and improve health equity in underserved communities across the country. Infusion sites under this initiative have now been established in Grand Rapids; Detroit; Houston; San Diego; Landover, Maryland; Barnstable County, Massachusetts; Beckley, West Virginia; and Worcester, Massachusetts.

Spectrum Health said it will increase efforts to inform underserved communities about this treatment option through grassroots community outreach. Physicians also will be armed with information to share with patients when they receive positive test results.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is the first COVID-19 treatment granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for outpatient use. The therapy has been shown to help high-risk COVID-19 patients avoid hospitalization and recover at home.

All patients who tested positive for COVID-19 who are interested in mAb treatment at Spectrum should call (616) 391-0351 for expedited referral to the most appropriate Spectrum Health location for mAbs treatment. The FDA has expanded eligibility criteria, making this treatment available for more patients.

The infusion treatment takes 20 minutes, plus an additional hour for patient monitoring. Treatment is offered regardless of immigration status or health insurance. Patients will be asked for their insurance card, if they have one, and insurance will be billed an administration fee for mAb. If treatment is received in the emergency department while seeking urgent care, there may be fees billed to insurance to support this encounter. There are no out-of-pocket costs for the mAb treatment, but there may be costs associated with an emergency room visit.

Spectrum Health opened its mAb clinic in December 2020 and has treated nearly 1,000 patients to date in the outpatient clinic. If administered within 10 days of onset of COVID-19 symptoms, the one-time therapy may decrease disease progression and reduce the risk of requiring hospitalization. The treatment is administered through intravenous infusion, delivering medication directly into a patient’s bloodstream.

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