Receiving a cancer diagnosis is overwhelming and challenging. Starting in 2023, AmeriHealth New Jersey is teaming up with Thyme Care, a personalized service that helps members navigate every step of their cancer journey. Learn more from our recent chat with Dr. Brian Dorsey, Thyme Care Medical Director.
Q: How does Thyme Care support a patient’s cancer journey?
A: Thyme Care offers support to members throughout their cancer journey — from the diagnostic process through treatment and beyond. Some of our core services include navigation support (i.e., a guide through the health care system), diagnosis and treatment education, and advocating for care that aligns with a member’s personal goals.
Members work with a dedicated team of resource specialists. We refer to them as “Care Partners.” They include oncology-trained nurses who make sure members receive the right care at the right time, delivered in a way that respects their wishes.
Q: What is the typical patient experience with Thyme Care?
Members first connect with our enrollment team, who explain Thyme Care services and identify any urgent needs. After enrollment, members meet their care team. In most cases, members meet their Care Partners first and then their nurse.
During these initial conversations, our team works to lay the foundation for a strong relationship. We get to know a member as a whole person — with needs that extend beyond a disease. We begin with what is important to a member: goals, preferences for care, successes in care, fears for moving forward, and other personal needs. We then learn about a member’s clinical (health) history and treatment course.
After these initial discussions, we coordinate with the member’s providers to formulate a personalized support plan and then get to work.
Q: How do you think services like Thyme Care impact a patient’s cancer journey?
A: Over the past two decades, the pace of development in [cancer care] has been truly remarkable. New diagnostics and new treatments seem to come to market weekly. Most of this progress has been focused, perhaps rightly so, on medications and treatments.
However, we know that diseases like cancer are bigger than the physiological changes that trigger them. Cancer doesn’t just affect a member’s skin or lungs or colon. It affects their whole being — the mind and spirit. It affects their environment and relationships.
Despite knowing that cancer affects the whole person, members that have cancer spend most of their time talking about [medications and treatments]. Their humanity gets lost in the shuffle. We are trying to reverse that.
Q: Why do you think deep patient-provider relationships are so important?
A: In my experience as a primary care physician, a strong patient-provider relationship is built on trust that is cultivated over the course of time. And we know that strong, trusting relationships lead to an improved experience and better outcomes. But how?
In my opinion, understanding a member’s unique lived experience is critical to providing the highest quality and most meaningful care. Most outcomes are dependent on both the treatment itself and the context in which a member receives care. A strong member-provider relationship is the channel through which a provider is given the opportunity to learn about and influence a member’s lived experience.
At Thyme Care, our care team takes the time to truly understand the nuances of a member’s experience. Because of this, they are able to provide more relevant and personalized advice and support. The member often receives that advice and support more openly. And, with a strong relationship, a member knows they have a trusted resource to turn to. They no longer have to risk getting lost in the system or being overwhelmed trying to figure it out on their own.
Q: Do you have any specific stories or experiences while working with Thyme Care that have greatly impacted you?
A: I am proud of the incredible work that our team does on a daily basis to support our members. Just this past week, we helped connect a 64-year-old woman with a new diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer to the behavioral health services that she needed.
For many months, the member had been experiencing symptoms of depression, but had not disclosed them to anyone, including her family members. After her cancer diagnosis, her symptoms worsened to the point that she was skipping meals, not doing laundry, and avoiding loved ones. During our initial conversations, our care team recognized that the member may need additional support. However, the member was not ready to disclose the extent of what was happening.
Our team persisted, routinely calling to check in. Over time, our team proved themselves to be a valuable, reliable, and consistent resource. During a check-in, the member opened up about her feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. She didn’t believe that anyone cared about her enough to help — until she met her Thyme Care team. We offered emotional support and immediately connected the member to both behavioral health services to manage her depressive symptoms and in-home care services to assist with basic needs. It gives me pause to think about what would have happened to this member if our team wasn’t involved.
Q: In what ways do you think Thyme Care’s collaboration with AmeriHealth New Jersey will benefit future patients?
A: Cancer is complicated. Every person with cancer deserves an “insider” who can help them navigate the difficult journey; Thyme Care is that insider. We’re thrilled to be able to partner with AmeriHealth New Jersey to bring our cancer expertise and navigation to members.
We’ll work to help members quickly and easily get the most appropriate treatment and support for their needs. We’ll offer an extra layer of personalized care for every AmeriHealth New Jersey member with cancer from an oncology-trained team who always puts members first.
We also work closely with member’s doctors to make sure everyone is up to date and that they get the right care at the right time, delivered in a way that respects their wishes. Our goal is to walk with AmeriHealth New Jersey members, hand in hand, through their cancer journey — educating, empowering, and coordinating thoughtful, [respectful] care.
If you have cancer or a concern for cancer, you can meet your dedicated team by calling or texting 201-526-8484 or visiting thymecare.com/sign-up. Thyme Care is available to AmeriHealth New Jersey members beginning January 2, 2023.