Health
2:28 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Allegheny Health Network, Johns Hopkins to Collaborate on Cancer Care, Research

Dr. Tony Farah and Dr. David Parda announce that Allegheny Health Network has signed a memorandum of understanding with Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny Health Network and Johns Hopkins Medicine have announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding between their two cancer centers.

When finalized, Allegheny Health Network and the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center will collaborate on several initiatives, share research and participate in joint projects, among other things.

“We formed this affiliation so that we could extend our cancer capabilities and bring a collaborative and collegial approach to cancer care for our region,” said Dr. David Parda, chair of the AHN Cancer Institute. “We know that this is the way to accelerate knowledge transfer and treatment advances.”

AHN cancer specialists will have access to colleagues at Johns Hopkins for things such as case consultations and second opinions on rare cancer diagnoses and emerging therapies.

“Select Hopkins-based clinical trials will be expanded to Allegheny Health Network sites, providing patients to home-town access to leading edge cancer therapies available only to those protocols and otherwise not available to western Pennsylvania patients,” said Dr. Tony Farah, chief medical officer for AHN.

Allegheny Health was created last year after Highmark bought the financially troubled West Penn Allegheny Health System and two other western Pennsylvania hospitals.

Highmark has been looking to increase its provider network, because the region’s dominant hospital network, UPMC, won't renew a reimbursement agreement with Highmark. Highmark subscribers will lose in-network access to most UPMC hospitals and doctors at the end of the year, meaning patients will pay larger deductibles if they use UPMC facilities.

UPMC's cancer treatment services are among the few services, along with access to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, that will continue to be in-network for Highmark users after the reimbursement contract expires, however. Still, the Johns Hopkins affiliation could enable Allegheny Health Network to compete more directly with UPMC to provide cancer treatment services for Highmark customers, but Parda said that’s was not the driving force behind the agreement.

“This affiliation is less about an expiring contract and more about collaboration,” Parda said. “I think all of us physicians at Allegheny Health Network agree with Highmark that patients need to have open access to all facilities throughout the region, we think that’s best for their health and well-being.”

As part of the future affiliation, AHN will establish a fund for cancer research which would focus on basic science efforts to reveal cancer triggers and treatments, clinical trials of new treatments, and quality of life and survival outcomes research.

“We’ll be funding advancing research, so Johns Hopkins will have access to that,” Parda said, “and funding clinical collaborations so we can improve the overall quality of care.”

Parda and Farah wouldn’t disclose how much will be in the fund. Details of the initial five-year affiliation outlined in the memorandum of understanding are expected to be finalized within the next few months.