Phoenix is experiencing a boom in cancer care as providers seek to fill a growing need in the snowbird state.
Cancer-care boom in Phoenix
Providers seek partners, boost services to meet need
With cancer death rates falling but need for cancer screening and treatment rising, Phoenix providers are seeing an opportunity to better serve their patients with care coordination and cutting-edge medicine.
Two hospital CEOs in the Phoenix area said that their own experiences as cancer patients helped inform them of the need in the region for better specialty care.
In May, Banner Health, a not-for-profit system based in Phoenix, announced a 10-year deal with the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, to build a
$90 million outpatient clinic and cancer hospital at 176-bed Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert, Ariz. The partnership will bring M.D. Anderson oncology specialists to the Phoenix area, and 507-bed M.D. Anderson will have clinical control over the facility, with 19-hospital Banner Health providing funding and administrative support.
The University of Arizona at Tucson is seeking a partnership in the Phoenix area to develop a cancer center. Previous talks with Banner Health and 690-bed St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, fell through, but school officials said they will continue seeking options. “Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the country,” said Sara Hammond, spokeswoman for the University of Arizona's Arizona Cancer Center, Tucson. “Our mandate is to serve the entire state.”
Local providers are also enhancing specialty cancer-care service. John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital, a 174-bed, not-for-profit facility in Phoenix, last month opened a Breast Health and Research Center.
Mitch Latinkic, vice president of global business development for M.D. Anderson, said Arizona is a “captive market” with 60% of state residents residing in Phoenix and continued population growth in the region.
When evaluating potential partnerships, Phoenix made sense because of its size and location, Latinkic said. “We found that cancer care being delivered in the area is through more of a fragmented mechanism,” he said. “We thought in this market we could make a difference.”
Others have thought so too. The Mayo Clinic has facilities in Phoenix and Scottsdale, and Cancer Treatment Centers of America has a center in Goodyear, Ariz., near Phoenix. But Phoenix lacks a major academic medical center and the model of care has been largely solo- or small-practice medicine, others said.
The University of Arizona has been seeking a partner to open a cancer center in Phoenix for the past two to three years. Talks with Banner Health fizzled several years ago. The Tucson-based university was close to a deal with St. Joseph Hospital and Medical Center, a Catholic Healthcare West facility, but last week nixed the possibility after St. Joseph signed an academic affiliation with Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, to bring medical students to the hospital for training.
The number of cancer deaths overall has declined steadily in the past three decades, though cancer incidence is on the rise in certain cancer types, according to a report released last week by the American Association for Cancer Research. The decreased mortality across all age groups shows the effect of improved screening and treatment, the report said. Death rates in Arizona continue to rise for certain cancers, including melanoma and thyroid and liver cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Two Phoenix-based hospital CEOs learned from personal experience the importance of screening and treatment.
Rhonda Forsyth, president and CEO of John C. Lincoln Health Network, was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in 2006 and said her experience made her want to improve cancer care locally. She has since made a full recovery. “When I was first diagnosed, I was given lots of different treatment options, and I felt they were sort of dropped in my lap,” she said. “It felt very complex and difficult to navigate.”
John C. Lincoln's new breast health center offers care coordination and same-day imaging results. Each patient gets a case conference to discuss options, and oncology surgeons practicing at the hospital agree to specific guidelines on patient communications. She praised Banner Health and other competitors for bringing more cancer care to the region.
Peter Fine, president and CEO of Banner Health, was already in discussions with M.D. Anderson to launch a new cancer center in Phoenix when he was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue a year ago.
Fine's cancer was caught early by a “very astute primary-care physician,” he said. Fine and his wife moved to Houston for six weeks for treatment at M.D. Anderson on advice of his local physicians, and he has since made a full recovery. “I appreciated their multidisciplinary approach,” Fine said of M.D. Anderson. “You felt very strongly a whole atmosphere of research.”
The cancer center at Banner Gateway, which will open in early 2011, will offer care for five of the most prevalent cancer types, adding more specialty oncology services over time. Seventy-two hospital beds will be dedicated to cancer care. All physicians working on the project will be trained in Houston and patients will have similar access to services, such as clinical trials.
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