Cancer fighter: The AHN-Johns Hopkins partnership is a winner

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As the field of health care becomes more competitive, hospital systems must strive to put forward the best product at the best price that delivers the best possible result.

Allegheny Health Network’s decision to partner with the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore not only is a major enhancement to how the Pittsburgh medical provider approaches the disease, but it is also frank recognition of the increasingly competitive landscape in Western Pennsylvania health care.

As AHN moves along in its affiliation with Highmark, the region’s dominant insurer, it must demonstrate the value of its product to patients who would prefer its rival, UPMC, the region’s dominant health care network. Rather than commit resources to build a costly and redundant alternative to the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside, AHN has secured a promising partnership with Johns Hopkins.

The new association, based on a memo of understanding to be worked into a formal agreement in the next few months, will enable Allegheny Health Network and Johns Hopkins to work together on clinical care, innovative research and continuing education for physicians and nurses. Like the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Johns Hopkins is one of 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the country designated by the National Cancer Institute.

It is hard not to see the scheduled end of the UPMC-Highmark contract, beginning next year, as one of the drivers behind the Allegheny-Johns Hopkins partnership. Whether that was a factor or not and regardless of what happens between UPMC and Highmark, this is good news for Pittsburgh patients battling cancer and better news for maintaining health care competition.

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