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Highmark Blue Shield and National Association Name Area Hospitals as Blue Distinction Centers for Complex and Rare Cancers

Two Hospitals in Central Pennsylvania Earn Designation

CAMP HILL, Pa., March 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Highmark Blue Shield is pleased to announce the recognition of Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Lehigh Valley Hospital as Blue Distinction Centers for Complex and Rare Cancers.

Complex and rare cancers comprise approximately 15 percent of new cancer cases each year, making it difficult for patients to locate or research facilities with oncologists or surgical teams that are experienced in treating these specific malignancies.

Blue Distinction Centers for Complex and Rare Cancers are facilities within participating Blue Cross and Blue Shield network service areas that offer comprehensive inpatient cancer care programs for adults, delivered by multidisciplinary teams with subspecialty training and distinguished clinical expertise in treating the following complex and rare subtypes of cancer:

-- acute leukemia (inpatient/non-surgical)

-- bladder cancer

-- bone cancer

-- brain cancer -- primary

-- esophageal cancer

-- gastric cancer

-- head and neck cancers

-- liver cancer

-- ocular melanoma

-- pancreatic cancer

-- rectal cancer

-- soft tissue sarcomas

-- thyroid cancer -- medullary or anaplastic

The Blue Distinction Centers for Complex and Rare Cancers designation is focused primarily on multidisciplinary treatment planning and complex, major surgical treatments.

"This program supports Highmark's consumerism approach to give members a greater hand in their health by providing tools to help members make informed choices about their health care," said Carey Vinson, M.D., vice president for quality and performance management at Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. "The Blue Distinction Centers designation offers members reliable quality-based information pertaining to Blue network-participating facilities when selecting a provider."

Among other selection criteria, these hospitals met the following thresholds necessary to be named as Blue Distinction Centers for Complex and Rare Cancers:

-- has multidisciplinary team input, including sub-specialty trained teams

for complex and rare cancers and demonstrated depth of expertise across

cancer disciplines in medicine, surgery, radiation oncology, pathology

and radiology

-- demonstrates ongoing quality management and improvement programs for

cancer care

-- demonstrates an ongoing commitment to using clinical data registries

and providing access to appropriate clinical research for complex and

rare cancers

-- demonstrates sufficient volume of experience in treating rare and

complex cancers

Blue Distinction Centers for Complex and Rare Cancers were developed in strategic collaboration with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and input from a panel of leading clinicians and professional organizations.

Blue Distinction(R) is a designation awarded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies to medical facilities that have demonstrated expertise in delivering quality health care. The designation is based on rigorous, evidence-based selection criteria established in collaboration with leading clinicians, medical societies and professional organizations.

With the current areas, including cardiac care and bariatric surgery already in place, Highmark Blue Shield will have a more comprehensive program focused on quality specialty care compared to other health plans. This designation is for 18 months, and institutions that are a part of the program also are subject to periodic re-evaluation as criteria continue to evolve.

Note: Designation as Blue Distinction Centers means these facilities' overall experience and aggregate data met objective criteria established in collaboration with expert clinicians' and leading medical societies' recommendations. Individual outcomes may vary. To find out which services are covered under your policy at any facilities, please call your local Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield Plan.

About Highmark Blue Shield

As one of the state's leading health insurers and with nearly 70 years of community involvement, Highmark Blue Shield helps members live longer, healthier lives by ensuring access to affordable, high quality health insurance and services. Highmark offers the widest range of products, access to all area hospitals and the most responsive customer service. Highmark exerts an enormous economic impact throughout Pennsylvania. A recent study states that Highmark's positive impact exceeded $2.5 billion. Employing more than 5,000 people in central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley, Highmark provides the resources to give its members a greater hand in their health.

Highmark Blue Shield is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans.

SOURCE Highmark
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