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Highmark-Penn State Health Partnership: A National Model For Local Health Care

posted by Deb Rice-Johnson, President, Highmark Inc.

on December 9, 2019

Two years ago this month, Highmark and Penn State Health made a bold announcement with an unbreakable promise. We would jointly invest $1 billion in the health and well-being of central Pennsylvanians. We would create a world-class, community-based network of health care – one that provides choice, convenience, and greater affordability.

This partnership and our promise are founded upon the concept that all health care is local. It’s easier to manage and improve health when you can access care close to where you work and live. When your doctor understands your health history and life circumstances, it unlocks a new level of trust and collaboration. And when payers like Highmark and providers like Penn State Health are aligned, we can work collaboratively in the best interest of patients and the broader community.

Two years into our partnership, Highmark and Penn State Health are delivering on our promise to central Pennsylvanians. So far, we have:

  • Invested in innovative cancer research. Highmark has invested $25 million in the Penn State Health Cancer Institute, which continues to see exciting advancements in care –from research to talent to innovative therapies like CAR-T. As one of the nation’s leading cancer research institutions, Penn State Health has contributed to breakthroughs that include the development of a cervical cancer vaccine. Their future work in cancer education, prevention and treatment will benefit generations of patients.
  • Created new health care access points. We announced plans to build new hospitals in Lancaster County and Cumberland County, adding critical access points where the demand for care has increased. These facilities will help deliver Penn State Health’s goal of ensuring that patients are within 10 minutes of primary care providers, 20 minutes of specialty care and 30 minutes of acute care. Penn State Health also opened the Lime Spring outpatient facility this year, bringing together a variety of primary and specialty care services under one roof.
  • Partnered with leading community physicians. In 2019 we established Penn State Health Care Partners, a clinically integrated network (CIN) designed to share best practices and develop standards of primary care across the network. The participating practices, which collectively care for more than 200,000 residents, remain independent while working together to design programs and practice standards. The result is better chronic disease prevention and management, and greater overall value for the care provided.
  • Developed customized coverage options. We have partnered with employers to develop Choice Blue, a health insurance solution that offers employees robust benefits and lower costs when they receive care through Penn State Health and certain independent providers. We work with employers to create a seamless experience for patients, including helping them select the right primary and specialty care providers.
  • Challenged the community to get fit. Highmark and Penn State launched Nittany Fit in 2019, a new technology-driven program that rewards all Pennsylvanians for making healthy choices related to fitness, nutrition, and mental and emotional well-being. I got so excited when we announced this that I almost challenged the Nittany Lion mascot to a push-up contest. Almost.

When payers and providers are aligned and understand the intricacies of the communities that they serve, the possibilities are nearly limitless. With the full capabilities of Highmark and Penn State Health behind this partnership and a hyper-local focus, we’re determined to further improve the health and wellness of our members, patients and, neighbors in the years to come.

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