Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, 10 Michigan hospitals partner to improve radiation therapy for breast and lung cancers

Physicians share data to develop best practices, improve quality of care

July 17, 2012

DETROIT — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and 10 Michigan hospitals have launched the first program of its kind in the nation to examine a form of radiation therapy for breast and lung cancer patients to reduce side effects, improve effectiveness and lower costs.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the 10 hospitals will identify which breast and lung cancer patients are most likely to benefit from Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy, a form of treatment that uses 3D computer technology to deliver precise radiation doses to the tumor. The study also will help design treatment guidelines aimed at giving patients more effective treatment with fewer side effects. Additional hospitals will be invited to join in phases beginning this year.

"This new initiative is one of 12 hospital collaborations that the Michigan Blues support in partnership with more than 70 hospitals across Michigan," says David Share, M.D., M.P.H., vice president, Value Partnerships, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. "These collaborations are saving valuable health care dollars by increasing safety, reducing complications and improving the quality of medical and surgical procedures for over 200,000 patients in Michigan each year."

"This is the first quality initiative, anywhere, to look specifically at appropriate use of this very high-tech treatment," says Lori Pierce, MD, clinical lead for this radiation oncology initiative. "Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) can be very effective, but it’s also very expensive. It is unclear which patients truly derive a benefit from its use. It is also possible that some patients could adversely be affected by IMRT. Through this statewide collaboration, we’ll be able to collect and share data on a larger number of patients, which will help us create more effective standards for the most appropriate radiation treatments."

Feedback from patients will be an important component of the research. Patients will report back any side-effects, such as redness or skin irritation following breast cancer treatment and changes in breathing and swallowing following lung cancer treatment. This information will be entered into the program's data registry, along with data on type of treatment, type of cancer, treatment outcomes, and other clinical data.

"We will be able to correlate information on patient and disease characteristics, treatment approach, outcomes and short-term side effects," says Pierce. "Then we'll develop standards and metrics to select the most appropriate patients to receive intensity modulated radiation therapy. It will help us use this highly complex and costly technology more effectively."

Participating hospitals include:

  • Allegiance Health, Jackson
  • Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit
  • Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit
  • Mercy Health Partners, Muskegon
  • Munson Medical Center, Traverse City
  • Northern Michigan Regional Hospital, Petoskey
  • St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor
  • University of Michigan Health System
  • William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak
  • William Beaumont Hospital, Troy

In April, the Blues announced health care cost savings of more than $232.8 million over a three-year period within four hospital collaborations involving bariatric surgery, general surgery, angioplasty and cardiac surgery. The Blues also recently announced a hospital collaboration aimed at improving the quality of hip and knee replacement for thousands of Michigan residents who annually undergo these procedures. The collaboration could reduce the need for patients to undergo subsequent surgeries to replace or repair the implant.

The collaborations are part of Value Partnerships, a series of initiatives among physicians, hospitals and the Michigan Blues, all aimed at improving quality and safety in medical care. For more information on this award-winning program, go to

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a nonprofit corporation and independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit

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