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At-home infusion therapy offers lower stress treatment, a greater sense of normality

At-home infusion therapy offers a greater sense of normality
At-home infusion therapy offers a greater sense of normality 02:54

SOMERSET, Wis. (WCCO) — Home infusion is meant to help patients become independent and resume normal activities while recovering from an illness. The COVID-19 pandemic jump-started the growth of the at-home therapy.

Brekken Larson, 11, can be found beating everyone in video games while also receiving treatment as he battles a rare auto immune disease. He is currently in an encouraging spot after years of discomfort from juvenile dermatomyositis, which attacks his skin and muscles.

"His legs just don't work. It's painful almost like a heavy arthritis. It does deteriorate your muscles unless it's being medicated," his mother Jessica Larson said.

For years, treatment to manage his symptoms meant long trips and stressful days. Before the home infusions, Brekken Larson and his family would travel every six weeks from their home in rural Wisconsin about an hour to an infusion center in St. Paul, where Brekken Larson would undergo seven hours of treatment.

"It ate up so much of your day by the time you were in that rush hour traffic," Jessica Larson said.

After learning about home infusion therapy — and that their insurance would cover it — the Larsons made the change a year and a half ago. 

"Switching to home where he could do whatever he wants was a game changer," father Nicholas Larson said.

"He had his own bed he had his animals, his different gaming systems," Jessica Larson said.

He also has Jodi Rohr, a Fairview nurse who became fast friends with her young patient.

"She is very funny, and I make her laugh every single time when she's here," Brekken Larson said.

When Rohr first met him, he was struggling with pain and rashes. These days he's feeling much better.

"Every time I come and check on him, he has no symptoms and he's doing really well," Rohr said.

She is a big part of that improvement. She advocated for Brekken Larson to get a backpack, so he didn't have to move around with an IV post. And she plays video games.

"But she still needs to practice," Brekken Larson said.

Rohr is among the more than 80 Fairview nurses who administer infusions at patients' homes. The program reaches 3,000 unique patients per month and is experiencing double-digit growth year after year.

While home infusion therapy is experiencing extreme growth there are still hurdles for patients.

"Our biggest problem is Medicare. Medicare has kind of a small benefit right now that only covers about 30 drugs, roughly," said Tim Affeldt, Fairview Pharmacy Services' Vice President of Specialty and Infusion Pharmacy Operations.

The hope is that, as more patients learn about home infusion therapy, the demand will grow and medical providers and insurers will respond to those needs.

"When they help guide that and know that this can happen it just then became a reality and holy smokes, it was amazing," said Jessica Larson.

Fairview Home Infusion is one of the largest and most experienced home infusion businesses in the country. It recently started providing consulting services to other health care systems, to help them develop home infusion programs.

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