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The difference you can make when you're all for health.

Big data has big impact on cancer care

At 75, Joanne leads an active life.

She swims 3 days a week, goes to morning mass, and pitches in to help with her grandchildren.

When doctors told her she had breast cancer, she "forged ahead."

Following her doctor's recommendation, Joanne went to the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cancer Institute. It's one of the leading hospital systems that are part of the Highmark Cancer Collaborative. AHN provides high-quality health care to Highmark members in western Pennsylvania.

Thanks to AHN and the Cancer Collaborative, she received a course of radiation treatments specifically tailored to her needs and based on the latest medical research and data. That helped her get back to her daily life quickly and safely.

Now Joanne's grandchildren get more time to enjoy their grandma.

Joanne is living proof that big data analytics can give a big boost to the fight against cancer.

Finding the right treatment for Joanne

To treat her cancer, Joanne's oncologist recommended radiation instead of chemotherapy. So she was referred to Dr. Mark Trombetta, radiation oncologist and system director, clinical programs at the AHN Cancer Institute.

Highmark and AHN oncologists like Dr. Trombetta work together as part of the Highmark Cancer Collaborative. The Highmark Cancer Collaborative creates care plans based on national standards data for quality and safety.

In Joanne's case, Dr. Trombetta used these data-based best practices to help guide his treatment plan. Even though the standard 6-week course of radiation is increasingly being reduced to 3 weeks, he recommended a 4-week plan. Dr. Trombetta combined his expert knowledge with the best national treatment data to devise the right solution for Joanne.

This was great news. A 4-week plan was safer and was proven to be as effective as the 6-week solution. Joanne didn't get unnecessary treatments. And it meant less disruption to her life. Best of all, she was getting the right number of radiation sessions for her situation — and the care she needed to win her fight against cancer.

And Joanne didn't have to wait for prior authorizations before getting care. The Highmark Cancer Collaborative works with doctors like Dr. Trombetta to develop pre-approved courses of treatment based on best practices.

Clearing away the red tape reduces stress for patients and obstacles for doctors. It allows doctors to focus more on their patients' needs. And it frees patients from concerns about whether their care is covered.

Improving outcomes and lowering costs

Through initiatives like the Highmark Cancer Collaborative, more people are surviving cancer and living longer after being diagnosed.

In fact, medical advances have improved the 5-year survival rates for all cancers to nearly 70 percent. This means that for many people, cancer is now a chronic disease they can live with.

Unnecessary differences in how patients are treated impact safety, quality, and recovery. They also affect costs.

The Highmark Cancer Collaborative was created to address these differences and to make sure members get the right type and amount of treatment — not too much, not too little.

Transforming cancer care

The Highmark Cancer Collaborative is changing how cancer treatment decisions are made, how care is delivered, and how we pay for cancer care.

And the Highmark Cancer Collaborative gives doctors more support by making sure they are aware of the latest, most appropriate, and proven treatment options. With better-managed, high-quality care, the Highmark Cancer Collaborative is empowering doctors at every stage to deliver care that's effective, less disruptive, and lower cost. All while focusing on the best possible patient outcomes.

"Our goal with this collaborative is to create decision-support tools to guide physicians based on the most advanced medical science," said Dr. Parda, MD, and chair of the AHN Cancer Institute. "The idea is to use data to drive continuous improvement."

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