June 16, 2017

MaineHealth Cancer Care Network launched with $10M Alfond Foundation grant

Courtesy / MaineHealth
Courtesy / MaineHealth
Dr. Scot Remick, chief of oncology for Maine Medical Center and MaineHealth, holds up a $10 million check from the Harold Alfond Foundation, as the foundation's chairman, Greg Powell, left, MaineGeneral CEO Chuck Hays and Dr. Beth Overmoyer, director of inflammatory breast cancer program with the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, look on.

Why this matters

Cancer is a serious public health challenge in Maine, where incidence and mortality rates outpace national averages, according to MaineHealth.

Statewide, the most common cancer diagnoses are breast, lung, kidney and prostate.

Cancers that account for the highest portion of deaths in Maine are lung, colon, breast and pancreas. Maine's population health trends, including age, obesity and smoking rates, are all significant factors.

An innovative collaboration between MaineHealth, its affiliate hospitals and Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will enable cancer patients in Maine and Mt. Washington Valley to have access to comprehensive, coordinated patient-centered cancer treatment.

The MaineHealth Cancer Care Network, as the collaboration is now called, is being launched in part with a $10 million grant from The Harold Alfond Foundation.

In a news release describing the initiative, MaineHealth said the collaboration will enable hospitals or private practices that don't have the expertise or technology to deliver all types of cancer care to access comprehensive cancer treatment services performed by specialists whose expertise ranges from surgery to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

"Our network includes nearly 300 providers across Maine and the Mount Washington Valley," said Dr. Scot C. Remick, chief of oncology for Maine Medical Center and MaineHealth. "Coordinated, comprehensive care represents best practice in cancer treatment and typically delivers the best clinical and experience outcomes. The generous investment from The Harold Alfond Foundation will make a tremendous difference in the lives of Maine and New Hampshire residents by facilitating personalized, state-of-the-art care that turns more patients into survivors."

Through the network most patients will have access to a "patient navigator" whose role is to educate them about the disease, discuss treatment options and help coordinate their appointments.

Support for prevention, education

The Alfond Foundation's grant will also support MaineHealth's continuing efforts in prevention and education.

MaineHealth Cancer Care Network partners include Franklin Memorial Hospital, LincolnHealth, MaineGeneral Medical Center's Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, Maine Medical Center, Memorial Hospital, Mid Coast Hospital, Pen Bay Medical Center, Southern Maine Health Care, St. Mary's Regional Medical Center, Stephens Memorial Hospital, Waldo County General Hospital and the Cancer Care Center of York County.

When patients access the MaineHealth Cancer Care Network for care, they will access the services they need as close to home as possible. Patients can be referred to larger centers for more advanced care, second opinions or clinical trials, and then return to their local communities for follow-up care. The network's commitment is to coordinate the patient's journey as they access the services that are most appropriate for them.

Breaking down silos

The coordinated care model that will be practiced by the network is similar to the approach taken for nearly a decade at Augusta-based MaineGeneral, an affiliate of MaineHealth, through its Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care.

Greg Powell, chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation, said the new network will build on the success of both MaineGeneral's Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care and the Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute.

"The foundation is proud to continue its investment in cancer care and to make this commitment to the MaineHealth Cancer Care Network," he said. "By working together, we can achieve transformative change in the lives of so many people who everyday face a disproportionate risk of cancer. We are especially excited to work with such an outstanding team that is so incredibly focused on helping patients and families."

The Harold Alfond Foundation grant will be distributed over a five-year period and will cover some of the network's start-up costs, such as technology investments and hiring additional providers, patient navigators and program managers.

Chuck Hays, chief executive of MaineGeneral Medical Center, characterized the new network as "an opportunity to deliver the right care as close to home as possible for so many people and dramatically improve health outcomes for those diagnosed with cancer."

Through the network's affiliation with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute — designated by the National Cancer Institute as a comprehensive cancer center and widely recognized as one of the world's leading treatment and research centers — patients will have expedited access to Dana-Farber for evaluation and treatment of rare cancers, second opinions and an expanded array of clinical trials in Boston.

"We are very excited about this relationship with MaineHealth, one that we expect will evolve over time," said Dr. Eric Winer, chief strategy officer with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "We hope to help ensure that people with cancer always have access to the very best care possible."


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