Allegheny is part of Highmark, the Pittsburgh-based health insurer that became an integrated delivery system after acquiring the eight-hospital Allegheny last year. Its primary competitor, UPMC, has the region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, one of the highest recognitions for cancer care and research. Johns Hopkins’ cancer center in Baltimore also holds that designation.
The deal, first announced in January, will allow Johns Hopkins and Allegheny physicians to consult on rare cancer cases and new treatment therapies. Also, an undisclosed amount of money will be made available over the five years for physicians at each system to conduct discovery research. Continuing medical education programs for Allegheny clinicians and joint quality and safety projects also will be developed.
“A real focus is to accelerate that knowledge transfer to communities where the majority of cancer care needs to be delivered,” Dr. David Parda, system chairman of the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute, said in an interview.
Patients with the most complex cancer needs could be sent to Johns Hopkins’ facility, but officials said the Allegheny site will be a primary focus for much of the collaboration.
Dr. William Nelson, director of the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, said Allegheny’s clinical experience in central and western Pennsylvania, as well as the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project—a clinical cancer trials group at Allegheny General Hospital—were big draws for the deal.
“We wanted to make this (care) more accessible to a broader community of folks,” Nelson said.
Allegheny considered several other health systems for an affiliation, including MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. The system went with Johns Hopkins because of its proximity and research expertise, particularly within the early stages of cancer clinical trials, Parda said.
“This is a game-changer for the Pittsburgh region because it really promotes a more collaborative and collegial approach to cancer care,” Parda said.
Follow Bob Herman on Twitter: @MHbherman