The region’s largest nonprofit hospital system, Baptist Health South Florida, announced a high-profile partnership Wednesday with the nationally regarded Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for the new $400 million Miami Cancer Institute under construction next to Baptist Hospital Miami in Kendall and scheduled to open later this year.
The alliance with Memorial Sloan Kettering, whose New York City hospital consistently ranks among the nation’s top cancer treatment centers, will give Baptist Health patients access to Sloan Kettering’s clinical trials, said Michael Zinner, a physician and chief executive of Miami Cancer Institute, in a written statement.
“The enhanced treatments and clinical care we can now offer — including standards that align with MSK for surgical procedures, chemotherapy and radiation therapy — will have a near-immediate impact on our patients,” Zinner said.
The Miami Cancer Institute becomes the third regional hospital to join Sloan Kettering’s growing national alliance, which already includes Hartford Healthcare in Connecticut and Lehigh Valley Health Network in Pennsylvania.
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The number of people living beyond a cancer diagnosis reached nearly 14.5 million in 2014 and is expected to rise to almost 19 million by 2024, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The South Florida partnership, however, is not unique among nationally recognized healthcare systems seeking to extend their brand through strategic affiliations that stop short of a merger.
Three of the best known hospital systems in the country have launched initiatives to develop national networks of local affiliated hospitals and systems, said Allan Baumgarten, a Minnesota-based healthcare consultant and author of the biannual Florida Health Market Review.
The local hospital partner is then able to market the national brand to attract more patients who prefer to receive care close to home, Baumgarten notes.
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the nation’s top cancer treatment center, already has alliances with hospital systems in Orlando and Jacksonville. Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic also has a large cancer treatment presence in Jacksonville.
“Obviously, people think Florida is fertile ground for high-end cancer treatment,” Baumgarten said.
Obviously, people think Florida is fertile ground for high-end cancer treatment.
Allan Baumgarten, healthcare consultant
Florida’s leading cancer treatment program is Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Cancer & Research Institute, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated center — one of 69 across the country that form the foundation of the nation’s cancer research efforts.
In South Florida, cancer care in Miami is dominated by the University of Miami Health System’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, the most profitable program in the UHealth network with $453.2 million in operating revenue and a profit margin of 26 percent in 2014, according to Baumgarten’s report.
Baptist Health’s alliance with Sloan Kettering, however, means more competition for Sylvester and more choices for South Florida cancer patients, said Sal Barbera, a former hospital executive and professor of health services administration at Florida International University.
“The direct benefit will be for the patient,” he said. “Let’s face it, Sylvester is going to have to up their game because now they have a big gorilla in town. . . . This provides local patients with more options, and it provides referring doctors with more options.”
According to Baptist Health’s announcement, the partnership will unfold over the coming months, with Sloan Kettering guiding the Miami Cancer Institute’s patient care and research programs.
Once the first phase is complete, the Miami Cancer Institute is expected to become an official member of the Sloan Kettering alliance over the next year. Local physicians also will have the opportunity to visit Sloan Kettering’s center in Manhattan to learn new techniques and other skills.