Five years after setting a goal to invest $1 billion to bring health care to people in their own communities, Penn State Health and Highmark say their partnership is a success.
Based on the goal of providing services within 10 minutes of primary care providers, 20 minutes of specialty care and 30 minutes of acute care, Penn State Health and Highmark said the partnership has created and expanded healthcare access points throughout the mid-state; partnered with private practice clinicians to strengthen patients’ health outcomes and lower costs; partnered with community-based organizations to combat COVID-19 and improve health equity; invested in leading-edge cancer research; and launched novel health insurance products.
The partnership, they said, included a shared promise: to create a world-class, network of health care across the south-central PA region.
“PSH has invested over $1B in the region since the announcement,” said Stephen Seftchick, senior vice president, Market Executive Central Pennsylvania Highmark Health. “This includes the opening of many new ambulatory locations and the Hampden Medical Center and Lancaster Medical Center.”
“We share a common vision with Highmark—to make it easier for patients and families to get the right care in the right setting at the right cost and the right time,” said Steve Massini, Penn State Health CEO. “We have invested in extending Penn State Health’s presence across the region with new hospitals, new physician practices and expanded services in familiar locations to give patients more health care choices closer to home.”
The expansion includes the Hampden Medical Center, which opened in October 2021, offering residents of Cumberland and Perry counties, as well as the broader Harrisburg area, access to Penn State Health’s acute care services without having to make the drive to Hershey, Massini said.
Lancaster Medical Center, opened in October 2022, provides residents of Lancaster and York counties with more access to Penn State Health’s expertise and specialty services.
And in the summer of 2022, Penn State Health opened Lancaster Pediatric Center which offers comprehensive, high-level pediatric care in an environment designed for and dedicated to children, teens and their families, Massini said. The facility is backed by the resources of Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.
Penn State Health has also acquired Holy Spirit Health System, expanded Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, and now operates more than 225 outpatient practices and services sites across the mid-state, including new primary and specialty care or diagnostic facilities in Camp Hill, Lemoyne, East Pennsboro Twp., Upper Allen Twp., Leader Heights, Linglestown, Union Deposit, Lancaster, Leesport, Wyomissing, and Reading.
In 2015, Penn State Health launched Penn State Health Care Partners, a clinically integrated network (CIN) designed to share best practices and develop standards of primary care across the network, Penn State Health said.
Participating community partners, which include approximately 180 providers who care for more than 230,000 residents, remain independent while working together to design programs and practice standards, Penn State said.
“We at Highmark work very closely with many independent physicians on value-based care initiatives and programs, like our True Performance program,” Seftchick said. “Through the collaboration with Penn State Health’s clinically integrated network, Penn State Health Care Partners, we are helping to bring together Independent Physicians and hospital leaders are working together to design and implement a more coordinated healthcare system of care.”
The result is better chronic disease prevention and management, according to Penn State Health. One hundred percent of the CIN’s independent family medicine providers delivered high quality care that surpassed Highmark’s True Performance Quality threshold in 2021, the network said.
Through the partnership, Highmark and Penn State Health also partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Latino Connection and other central Pennsylvania community stakeholders to create the Community-Accessible Testing and Education (CATE) COVID-19 mobile vaccination, testing and education unit. The CATE mobile unit has reached tens of thousands of people, focusing on areas where access to bilingual resources and education are not readily available.
And Highmark provided a grant of $25 million into the Penn State Cancer Institute, which continues to see advancements in care—from research to talent to innovative therapies, Seftchick said.
Highmark and Penn State Health have also partnered with local employers to develop Choice Blue, a health insurance solution that offers employees benefits and lower costs when they receive care through Penn State Health and certain independent providers.
Moving forward, Seftchick said, change and the possibility of continued expansion is always on the table.
“As we have been for years, we collectively are very focused on the patient/customer experience and the ongoing optimization of all of these new sites of care in the Penn State Health system,” he said. “Helping to ensure people have access to care in the right setting at the right time, and because of the many locations, often this means getting care conveniently and close to home.”