How Partnering with a Proton Center Can Boost a Hospital's Oncology Program

Hospitals are always trying to improve their programs and service lines, whether by acquiring new equipment, building additional space, recruiting talented professionals or partnering with other organizations. While typically hospitals will partner with other hospitals, health systems or outpatient centers, aligning with a proton therapy center is a new type of relationship that offers the opportunity to improve a hospital's oncology program.

The three main benefits to a hospital of a collaboration with a proton center are improving patient care, differentiating from competition and increasing market share, according to Hadley Ford, CEO of ProCure Treatment Centers, a company that develops proton therapy centers.

1. Patient care. The center can improve patient care because proton therapy has more precise targeting of cancer cells that causes less damage to nearby, healthy tissue than the alternative, standard radiation therapy.

2. Marketing. The collaboration also gives hospitals a marketing opportunity because it can differentiate the hospital's oncology program from those of other hospitals. "Proton therapy is not readily accessible since there are only nine centers in the United States. If the hospital has access to a proton center, it sets them apart," Mr. Ford says. Although a proton center distinguishes a hospital's oncology program, it also presents a challenge in market awareness. Typically, Mr. Ford says, the percent of people in a given market who are aware of proton therapy is limited to single digits. Hospitals have to educate patients and their referring physicians about the therapy to raise awareness and drive utilization.  

3. Revenue. Proton centers can benefit hospitals' finances because patients who go the proton center will usually need additional services that the hospital can provide. "The hospital is able to gain market share and deliver ancillary services that they have a fixed investment in already," Mr. Ford says.

Mr. Ford says the most successful hospital collaborations are those in which the hospital CEO has a vision of proton centers as part of a broader oncology program strategy. "We evaluate all patients to determine their best course of therapy and are very careful that the patients accepted for treatment are ones that can clearly benefit from proton therapy. Other patients are referred for other, more appropriate services," Mr. Ford says. He estimates that a four-room proton center treats 1,200-1,500 patients a year. The price to develop a center can range from approximately $160 million-$300 million depending on whether the hospital develops the center alone or with a management partner. "To look at a project of this magnitude, you need a vision that incorporates the full continuum of cancer care with protons as an anchor to your program," Mr. Ford says.

Learn more about ProCure Treatment Centers.

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