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Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network Announce Major Investment in Cancer Services

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Building on Allegheny Health Network’s (AHN) legacy as a provider of innovative, world-class cancer care, Highmark Health today announced plans to invest more than $200 million over the next two years to further enhance access to leading-edge oncology services in the western Pennsylvania region, as well as other markets served by the organization, including Central PA, Delaware and West Virginia.

Included in the strategic plan is construction of a state-of-the-art academic cancer institute facility on the campus of Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), the establishment of additional community-based cancer treatment centers across western PA, investments in new technologies, and an expansion of Highmark and AHN’s relationship with the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Medicine.  

The broadened collaboration with Johns Hopkins Medicine will offer AHN cancer patients and Highmark members even greater access to the unique expertise of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center team and novel therapies being explored through the Center’s clinical trials research program. 

“Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network are committed to ensuring that all cancer patients in the regions we serve have convenient, affordable access to the highest level of cancer care possible,” said David Holmberg, President and Chief Executive Officer of Highmark Health. “By almost every measure, the cancer program at Allegheny Health Network has long been one of the nation’s best in terms of the quality and sophistication of the care it provides.  Today we are taking a major step forward to further strengthen that tradition in order to meet the market demand of our patients, members and communities in the years ahead.”  

The new cancer institute at AGH will serve as the hub for AHN’s cancer-related academic and research activities as well as house the hospital’s quaternary medical and radiation oncology programs.   AHN expects to break ground on the project by the end of 2017.   

Locations for AHN’s new community-based cancer treatment centers, which will offer medical and radiation oncology care, are currently being finalized, with construction also anticipated to start by the end of the year.   Together, the half dozen or so new facilities are expected to add as many as 175 new healthcare jobs in the region, in addition to the many construction jobs the projects will support.

AHN currently offers a range of comprehensive cancer care, including hematology, medical, radiation and surgical oncology, with more than 50 clinics at 23 sites across the greater western PA area.   The Network partners with independent community hospitals at 10 of those locations.

As part of the expanded relationship with Johns Hopkins Medicine, AHN cancer patients will have enhanced local access to clinical trials being led by the Hopkins team, including some that will be offered in western PA.  Combined, the two cancer programs have more than 600 active clinical trials.  

Other collaborations in effect between the two organizations as part of the agreement include:

Remote consultation and second opinions at Johns Hopkins Medicine, with streamlined and guided access for AHN patients to Johns Hopkins Medicine

Peer-to-peer consultations on general clinical issues and treatment options

Participation in Grand Rounds presentations and case study reviews

Development of technological innovations to treat cancer and provide patients with access to unique technologies and treatments at Johns Hopkins Medicine for rare and complex adult and pediatric cancers, including Hopkins’ Proton Beam Therapy program when it launches in 2019

Advanced molecular testing provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine to guide more personalized  and effective treatment of AHN patients diagnosed with late-stage malignancies

A new referral collaboration with Johns Hopkins Medicine for patients requiring lung and pediatric bone marrow transplantation

The new agreement also establishes Johns Hopkins Medicine as a Preferred Referral Partner for Highmark patients for rare and complex adult and pediatric cancers. The partnership includes a concierge program committed to helping members understand their benefits and, if needed, coordinate travel and streamline care at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore at the best possible value. 

“We are honored to be working with the oncologists at Allegheny toward our shared goal of providing the best cancer care for their patients,” says Paul Rothman, M.D., Dean of the Medical Faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine "Additionally, we are pleased to now also be Highmark's Preferred Referral Partner, including across Highmark's Blue Card Network in western Pennsylvania as well as West Virginia and Delaware." Johns Hopkins Medicine is a Blue Distinction Center for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the United States, and as the population ages, the number of new cancer cases is expected to grow significantly.  There were 1.685 million new cancer cases in 2016, with a 50% increase expected over the next decade to more than 2.3 million annually.  In addition, as screening and treatment methods improve, the number of cancer survivors is expected to rise from 11.7 million in 2007 to 18 million in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“Collaboration among doctors and among institutions is essential to winning the war against this formidable disease,” said David Parda, M.D., Chair, AHN Cancer Institute. “The partnership between Highmark Health, AHN and Johns Hopkins Medicine is an excellent example of how like-minded organizations can come together, share knowledge and resources, and develop new paradigms for care and coverage that advance our capabilities and have a meaningful impact on the lives of our patients.”