In the coming weeks you may be seeing advertising that features Hartford HealthCare’s membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance. We first announced the MSK Cancer Alliance back in September – at the same time we named Hartford HealthCare (HHC) as the charter member in this initiative, designed to help community providers improve their programs of cancer care.
The HHC Cancer Institute campaign kicked off with a televised ad that aired locally during the Super Bowl — and included some familiar Memorial Sloan Kettering faces. It will be followed by print ads based primarily in Connecticut, as well as parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
To learn more about the MSK Cancer Alliance, we spoke to Richard Barakat, Deputy Physician-in-Chief for Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Regional Care Network and Alliances.
What is the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance and why did MSK decide to create it?
The concept of the MSK Cancer Alliance was borne out of our strong desire to advance the quality of cancer care for people who receive treatment in their local communities. It can take years for the cutting-edge work we do at Memorial Sloan Kettering to reach the community setting. Our hope is to speed up this process so that regional providers are delivering the best care and achieving the best outcomes possible for their patients — and doing it sooner rather than later. Also, because we know that the vast majority of cancer care in the United States is delivered in a community setting, we are interested in becoming more closely involved with how cancer care is practiced outside of a specialty center like ours.
What membership in the Alliance actually entails will vary according to the specific needs of our members. Generally speaking, an alliance with Memorial Sloan Kettering empowers members to adopt the latest standards in cancer care. It could also involve clinical trials, which allow patients to receive the newest, most cutting-edge therapies available. In fact, the HHC Cancer Institute will include our first clinical trials site established through the MSK Cancer Alliance.
What are some other distinctive features of the MSK Cancer Alliance?
One feature I’d like to emphasize is the tremendous opportunity for what we call bidirectional learning — which is really just another way of saying that the educational component of the MSK Cancer Alliance is a two-way street. Alliance members may, for example, be able to participate in our disease management teams or make on-site observations. There may also be opportunities to collaborate on joint research projects to measure outcomes related to survival rates, quality of life, or the overall cost of care.
On our end, the Alliance is helping us learn firsthand how to deliver care and offer clinical trails in the community setting. It will also help us to broaden the impact of our program of clinical trials by opening them up to a much larger patient population.
I should also add that none of this requires the building of any new facilities, and that makes this approach a cost-effective model for community providers seeking to optimize their cancer care.
Why did Memorial Sloan Kettering choose Hartford HealthCare as its first alliance member?
We selected Hartford HealthCare as our charter member first and foremost because HHC shares our commitment to excellence in patient care, and has an established reputation in the community it serves. HHC’s cancer program is one of the highest-quality programs in the region, and is responsible for the care of approximately 18 percent of all cancer patients in Connecticut. The fact that Hartford Hospital is one of only 30 hospitals nationwide designated as an NCI Community Cancer Center was also a compelling factor.
What is happening with the Hartford alliance right now?
Right now, we are helping the HHC Cancer Institute enhance its programs of cancer care and clinical research, including through access to Memorial Sloan Kettering clinical trials on-site.
As the collaboration moves forward, certain HHC cancer doctors will participate in observerships and be integrated into our disease management teams. We will also jointly recruit a chief medical officer for the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute who will be on staff at both HHC and Memorial Sloan Kettering. It’s important to note that HHC patients will remain patients of the HHC Cancer Institute and will continue to receive their care locally.
The HHC advertising campaign is really a measure of HHC’s enthusiasm for our collaboration and the significant improvements it will bring to regional cancer care when the program launches later this spring.
What is the plan for the MSK Cancer Alliance going forward?
Our immediate focus is on ensuring that the alliance with Hartford begins successfully. Ultimately, our goal for the future is to create a network of providers that extends beyond the New York metropolitan area so that we can reach patients in more communities.