Senior woman on a video call with her doctor
Credit: Marko Geber/Getty Images

The parent organization of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan, Point32Health, announced today that it will collaborate with oncology telehealth and digital health company OncoHealth to deploy Iris, a digital platform to provide around-the-clock mobile symptom management and mental health services to cancer patients, their families, and care-givers.

In the first stage of the phased pilot, Iris by OncoHealth, will be offered to eligible Harvard Pilgrim Health Care members with cancer in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.

“Our members who have cancer and their caregivers need specialized support to answer questions that may arise outside of scheduled appointments,” said Michael Sherman, MD, EVP and CMO at Point32Health in a press release. “Collaborating with OncoHealth will provide our members with access to cancer specialists anywhere, at any time and in a location that is convenient for them.”

The Iris telehealth technology leverages data and specially trained U.S.-based oncology experts—oncology doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, physician assistants, and peer mentors—to deliver personalized, oncology-specific telehealth support to members and their families facing cancer 24 hours a day. Members can access services via chat, phone, or video on both iOS and Android platforms, as well as the web.

Iris was developed by OncoHealth in collaborations with Point32Health and two additional U.S.-based health plans. The service was tested in a small cohort of Massachusetts-based patient to ensure it was an effective tool that is easy to use.

“Regardless of whether you live in an area without an oncologist or cancer-specific mental health resources or close to the best cancer centers in the region, what do you do when side effects show up after hours or you just need to talk with someone about your fears and anxiety related to your specific cancer?” said Rick Dean, CEO of OncoHealth. “Through Iris, eligible Harvard Pilgrim Health Care members will now have access to high-quality cancer mental health care and physical symptom management, all at no cost to the member, from the convenience of wherever they are, at the time they need it.”

Specific services offered through Iris include:

  • Personalized 24×7 oncology nurse care. Cancer-related symptoms and side effects can happen anytime, often leading to costly emergency department visits or even hospitalizations.
  • Oncology-specific mental healthcare. The mental health service supports members who would like guidance on topics such as fear of recurrence, how to talk with their family or employer about their diagnosis, and effective coping strategies for the emotional side of cancer.
  • Network of peer mentors. Members will have access to people who share similar characteristics as members, such as their gender, age, cancer diagnosis, and treatment.
  • Expert treatment reviews. The FDA has approved over 279 new cancer indications since 2017. People can be overwhelmed and confused trying to understand if their prescribed therapy is most appropriate for them, based on their specific disease, cancer stage, and genetic profile. Iris provides a second opinion on their cancer drug therapy, using evidence-based guidelines and personalized information including audio, video, and written content specific to their cancer or interest.

“While the member’s oncologist leads their treatment, our clinical team is available for the moments in between,” said Andrew Norden, CMO of OncoHealth. “We know we can have a positive impact on the member experience, improve care, and reduce costs, all while working in close collaboration with the member’s primary oncologist and care team.”

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