Spokane Journal of Business

Cancer alliance to benefit region


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The announcement last week that three major health care providers here have formalized plans for a regional cancer collaboration is exciting news that should further bolster this area’s reputation as the regional epicenter for specialized care.

 It also is cause for cheer among those who seek to raise awareness of and improve treatment methods for cancer, the general name for a group of more than 100 horrid diseases that arise when abnormal cells begin to grow out of control.

This is an ongoing major battle globally that big care providers here can address most effectively by melding their resources, where it makes sense, to create greater efficiencies and to provide the most coordinated and clinically advanced patient care possible.

Consider the magnitude of the battle: The American Cancer Society estimates that close to 1.7 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, and nearly 600,000 people will die of cancer-related causes. 

To try to address those occurrences locally, Providence Health Care, Kootenai Health and Cancer Care Northwest have formed an alliance under the name InnerPacific Alliance for Cancer Care LLC, the plans for which first were disclosed in May 2013.

Elaine Couture, CEO of Spokane-based Providence Health Care, said in a press release that the name “expresses the intended purpose of the alliance to provide integrated and comprehensive cancer care for patients in the Inland Northwest, with a full range of treatment options and supportive care to meet the needs of every patient.”

This isn’t the first time these alliance partners have worked together in different combinations, but it’s anticipated to be farther reaching and to have broader benefits than prior collaborations.

In announcing preliminary plans for the alliance two years ago, the partners described it as the first step in creating an environment that will make local advancements in cancer care possible.  Some of the envisioned benefits, they said, include adoption of evidence-based clinical protocols, medical research, and clinical trial opportunities that bring additional treatment options to patients, improved physician recruitment, and added community education and prevention programs.

As its first initiative, the alliance launched a comprehensive radiation oncology program earlier this month with a team of experts that includes eight radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, and others. Cancer Care Northwest, based in Spokane, is handling all radiation oncology services for the alliance.

Back in 2013, a Providence Health Care strategist told the Journal that the alliance’s formation was being driven in part by independent forces “pushing us to a place where working together makes more sense than not working together.” Meanwhile, a Kootenai Health executive described it as an outgrowth of higher expectations of many parties.

Regardless of what factors led to its formation, the evolution of the alliance as it launches additional cancer programs and begins to chart the tangible patient benefits of its various initiatives will be exciting to follow. We wish it the best.

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