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Hartford HealthCare, Memorial Sloan Kettering plan partnership

Hartford HealthCare is teaming up with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to bring clinical breakthroughs and cutting-edge treatments to Connecticut.

The massive Connecticut health network will become the first-ever “care partner” of the world-renowned cancer hospital, officials said. The partnership seeks to transform cancer care and research in Connecticut for decades to come, hospital leaders said.

The announcement will be made at Hartford HealthCare’s new state-of-the-art cancer center under construction in Fairfield. The planned 25,000-square-foot facility will be located at 4185 Black Rock Turnpike near the Merritt Parkway with completion targeted for the end of the year. Once finished, the cancer center will provide outpatient services with Hartford HealthCare physicians on-site, according to Tina Varona, Hartford HealthCare spokesperson.

The announced partnership would make the new Fairfield Cancer Center, St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, and Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute’s more than 70 locations across the state MSK Care Partners.

“A big problem with health care in the United States is that we excel at finding new breakthroughs in medicine, but where we struggle is the speed in which we bring those breakthroughs to everyone and do it in a way that’s equitable. That’s the problem we’re trying to solve here,” said Dr. Peter Yu, physician in chief of the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute.

“This will bring the latest breakthroughs and improvements to all patients in the state and we’re uniquely positioned to do that. We are an integrated health care system in every county of Connecticut. Whether you’re looking at inner-city Hartford or Bridgeport, suburban Fairfield County, or rural Litchfield or Windham counties, we have hospitals and doctors in all those locations.”

Hartford Healthcare has been expanding its footprint across Connecticut for several years, with urgent care centers. The goal of those centers has been to offer patients options, including access outside of primary care offices and emergency rooms, top officials have said. In total Hartford HealthCare now has almost 500 varied locations.

The new partnership will allow Hartford HealthCare physicians to work side-by-side with MSK nurses, doctors and pharmacists while more quickly bringing new advanced technologies to patients, Yu said. For patients with more advanced forms of cancer, the partnership will allow greater access to clinical trials and cutting-edge treatments through MSK’s world-renowned cancer research.

“We’ve been doing this for 10 years, but we will now really be able to go behind the curtain,” Yu said. “This will allow us to not just simply read a checklist or guidance statement, but actually experience what MSK staff are doing, discuss patient care with them and understand how they are solving problems. It really allows us a much greater depth of interaction than we have had in the past.”

MSK, which is located in New York City, is consistently ranked among the top cancer hospitals in the United States by U.S. News & World Report in its annual Top-Ranked Hospitals for Cancer in the U.S. With the agreement, MSK’s Connecticut Care Partners commit to working with MSK toward knowledge-sharing, broader access to clinical trials, expanded educational opportunities and collaboration with the world’s preeminent cancer specialists.

“This is a transformative moment for cancer care in Connecticut as we work together to provide greater access to cutting-edge treatments and innovative clinical research,” said Jeffrey Flaks, Hartford HealthCare President and Chief Executive Officer.

Hartford Healthcare Cancer Institute became an MSK Cancer Alliance member in 2014 after completing a rigorous evaluation of its oncology programs. Only two other cancer institutes in the nation, the Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute and the Miami Cancer Institute, are also MSK Cancer Alliance members. In order to now qualify as an MSK Care Partner, Hartford HealthCare must undergo another rigorous evaluation this summer.

“It’s true we went through this 10 years ago, but things change. There are new standards for care and new technologies,” Yu said. “The modern concept is more that you are constantly measuring quality and constantly improving and adjusting to changes.

“So what we’re doing with this launch is a comprehensive reassessment across all of Hartford HealthCare to see where we stand. We will look at well over 300 different measures to see if we are in alignment for MSK’s quality of care. But this is a constant ongoing process.”

Hartford HealthCare also plans to create a new dedicated cancer unit at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, providing comprehensive inpatient oncology care.

“Hartford HealthCare’s ambition is to be the best at getting better, and we work with the world’s best partners to make world-class health care more affordable, accessible, and equitable for all,” Flaks said. “We are proud to deepen our collaboration with MSK’s world-renowned experts to elevate cancer care and to work to earn designation as an MSK Care Partner.”

A “Cancer in Connecticut” report prepared by the state Department of Health and released in 2019, the most recent report the agency has online for all cancers, shows that from, 2011 to 2015, there were 101,736 new cancers diagnosed in Connecticut. The report says the incidence rate of all invasive cancers was 508 per 100,000 persons in men, and 449 per 100,000 persons in women. The National Cancer Institute reports that the Connecticut rate for invasive cancers from 2016 to 2020 was 458.2 per 100,000 people.

Hartford HealthCare said they expect the initial evaluation process to wrap up later this summer.

Stephen Underwood can be reached at 

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