Dana-Farber/St. Anne's Collaboration is Part of Growing Trend in Cancer Care

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , September 1, 2009

Bard says that such arrangements are part of a trend for four reasons:

  • Specialty centers like Dana-Farber have access to the latest in cancer science and technology. Unlike 25 years ago when cancer was a death sentence, today it's usually a chronic illness. "It really does matter how you get treated, and that you get the most current and contemporary care," he says.
  • When it comes to real brand name recognition in healthcare, it turn out that centers such as MD Anderson, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Dana-Farber, and the Mayo Clinic really do have a brand definition. "People now think of their illness as something they can have for quite a long time, and they know the quality of care they get can mean the difference between—not life and death—but quality of life, or just life."
  • People don't want to have to drive an hour for care they can get locally.
  • Telemedicine technology easily allows a physician to talk to patients and other physicians while they're seeing them from remote monitors.

Other centers across the country are venturing into similar brand-sharing arrangements. For example, several months ago MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston announced a partnership with Banner Health for a new cancer hospital in Phoenix.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis is partnering with Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego to help Mexican children with cancer.

The Mayo Clinic has established its own facilities in Scottsdale, AZ, and Jacksonville, FL, but also provides blood and bone marrow transplants for children with cancer at Phoenix Children's Hospital. Mayo Clinic's Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program in Arizona also collaborate with Phoenix Children's in the treatment of children with heart problems who require life-long cardiac care.

Nathan Kaufman, managing director of San Diego-based Kaufman Strategic Advisors, a healthcare analyst, says that such efforts seem to work much better in cancer care than in other kinds of medicine. In fact, he says, generally speaking, it only works in cancer care.

"Chemotherapy can be administered anywhere. It's somewhat unique in that, it can also be delivered remotely," he says. "You can get your CT and MRI scans anywhere, and if they're sent to Dana-Farber, where a group of experts design the latest greatest protocol. That saves a lot of wear and tear on the patient."

Another plus is through the payment structure. "Local oncologists support this because they can get research money and the supervisory fees associated with the treatment. It's not viewed as competition, but as collaboration."

Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

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