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Protecting Your Good Name

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Magazine, April 8, 2010
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Orlando's center was the earliest innovation that allowed M.D. Anderson to extend its reputation for excellent cancer care beyond its Houston borders. Orlando Health employs as many as 40 subspecialty oncology physicians at the center, many of whom trained at M.D. Anderson's main campus, and Orlando works collaboratively with the Houston main campus to coordinate treatment for patients in Florida and the Southeast. However, Orlando Health ultimately controls the clinical operation.

"Houston was looking to replicate major elements of the way they do cancer care there," says John Hillenmeyer, president and CEO of Orlando Health, who helped put together the collaboration 20 years ago. The Orlando campus attracts 4,000—5,000 new cancer patients a year from all over Florida in spite of strong competition.

"Lots of people think we bought M.D. Anderson's name, but clinical and research activities are integrated with Houston," he says. "We have access to research protocols only available from M.D. Anderson and we participate in telemedicine."

Physicians at both institutions plan cases together and refer to each other based on which institution is closer to the patient's home, among other clinical considerations. But the clinical control ultimately resides in Orlando. In fact, the Orlando campus is not listed on M.D. Anderson's Web site as one of its locations, even though it carries the name.

"What's unique is that in some cases, they were sending more patients to Orlando than we were sending to Houston," Hillenmeyer says.

Clinical control
Banner Health President and CEO Peter Fine is justifiably excited about one of the bigger capital investments the 22-hospital system has ever made.

"It's a major capital investment for us in a clinical area that's very important and has huge growth opportunity," he says.

Banner's relationship with M.D. Anderson is quite different. When the new hospital opens in 2011, it will not feature Banner physicians who simply have access to M.D. Anderson's clinical protocols. Instead, physicians at the Banner facility will be physicians who have previously worked at the Houston main campus, or who have previously been trained by M.D. Anderson. Other physicians can work there, but they are required to spend six weeks at the main campus to learn the clinical processes.

"So M.D. Anderson has total authority and responsibility for the provision of clinical service," says Fine. "We own the buildings, we own the program, and the revenue stream is ours. But M.D. Anderson has the authority for the development of the clinical business, and it's something they've never done before, and that's why it's a very big deal."


Philip Betbeze is senior leadership editor with HealthLeaders Media. He can be reached at pbetbeze@healthleadersmedia.com.

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