With a plan "to share knowledge and expertise," Allegheny Health Network has signed a memorandum of understanding to affiliate with the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore.
The affiliation is expected to stipulate a five-year agreement during which the two health centers will collaborate on education, research and clinical matters.
The deal is expected to be finalized within a few months.
Allegheny Health Network partners with Johns Hopkins
An affiliation between Allegheny Health Network and the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore will allow the two health centers to collaborate on education, research and clinical matters. (Video by Andrew Rush; 1/22/2014)
The Johns Hopkins center was one of the first to be designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute, one of 41 such centers nationally including the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.
Under the agreement, AHN patients would have access to Johns Hopkins clinical cancer trials and doctors from the Kimmel center would consult with AHN physicians for rare cancer cases.
While patients could be treated in Baltimore in rare cases -- "maybe 1 in 1,000" patients -- the goal is to incorporate Hopkins' expertise to treat patients in Pittsburgh, officials said.
The affiliation agreement also calls for the creation of a fund for cancer research, although AHN officials declined to give specifics on financing.
Highmark's Allegheny Health Network has been seeking various partnerships and affiliations in anticipation of the possible end of its contract with Pittsburgh's dominant health system UPMC in 2015. But physician David Parda, chairman of the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute, said at a press briefing Wednesday that the affiliation had less to do with the possible end of a contract "and more about collaboration."
Chief medical officer Tony Farah said AHN already offers a full array of services for cancer patients as well as pioneering research, such as the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project. "Johns Hopkins would not be affiliating with us if we weren't expert oncologists and experts in our field," he said.
Dr. Farah also said the two centers may look into collaborations in other specialties as well. "I think this is the beginning of a great affiliation."
William Nelson, director of the Hopkins cancer center, said in a statement, "In the changing landscape of health are services, innovative initiatives like this will keep us at the forefront of discovery and patient-centered care."
Asked Wednesday about the AHN-Hopkins affiliation, UPMC spokesman Paul Wood said, "With no UPMC contract, this is what competition is all about. We welcome it in the best interests of the community and look forward to competing on the basis of quality, cost and services provided to patients."
Meanwhile Aaron Billger, spokesman for Highmark, called the Hopkins affiliation "an example of how health care should work for the benefit of patients."
"This is the kind of collaboration we want, and the community expects us to have, through a systemwide relationship with UPMC -- a systemwide relationship that is focused on providing quality patient care and choice in health care services to the community."
Steve Twedt: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1963.
First Published January 22, 2014 9:08 AM