In an effort to keep their businesses viable, 13 of the nation's foremost cancer centers are forming a national networkSpecialty care
to attract major employers and managed-care companies.
With a projected annual budget of $3.5 million, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network will act as a broker for the participating centers, each of which is investing $135,000 in cash annually for the next four years and another $135,000 in services.
"The primary motivating force in this is that we see our missions threatened," said Joseph Simone, M.D., the network's medical director and physician-in-chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. "We aren't just providing experienced care. We are trying to push the frontiers of care and push novel approaches. We can't do that if there aren't patients coming through our system."
Third-party payers have frowned on contracting with highly specialized cancer centers because their costs are higher than community hospitals' (May 2, 1994, p. 65).
Through the network, the participating cancer centers hope to attract the nation's largest employers and managed-care plans. Employers and managed-care companies will contract with the individual cancer centers. Eventually, more cancer centers are expected to sign on to the venture.
"We see opportunities to develop mutually beneficial relationships with corpora-tions and managed-care companies that will implement innovative strategies for the highest-quality cancer care and allow us to develop new methods of assessing the effectiveness, both in terms of costs and treatment outcomes, of cancer therapy," said Robert C. Young, M.D., a member of the network's coordinating committee and president of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
The participating centers will be able to share information and provide improved care standards and outcomes. They already have developed regional networks in their own geographic areas, Simone said.
The 13 cancer centers are City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, Calif.; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston; Fox Chase Cancer Center; Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle; University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston; Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, Baltimore; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Robert H. Lurie Cancer Center at Northwestern University, Chicago; Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Research Institute, Columbus; St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.; Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, Calif.; University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Detroit; and University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha.