PITTSBURGH (April 26, 2023) — Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and its parent company, Pittsburgh-based Highmark Health, this week are celebrating the 10th anniversary of an historic affiliation that radically altered the Western Pennsylvania health care landscape and created a new national model for the successful integration of a health insurer and hospital system. The affiliation also preserved thousands of local health care jobs and ensured that the hospitals and clinical programs of AHN's predecessor organization, West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS), would continue to thrive as some of the region’s leading sources of high-quality health services.
"A decade ago, we promised to do something bold and different we would transform our industry and build a better, more affordable health care model by uniquely blending the payer and provider experience and creating innovative solutions that enable our patients and members to live their best lives," said David Holmberg, Highmark Health president and CEO. "We are extremely proud of what our exceptional caregivers and team members at every level have accomplished in the pursuit of that goal, and we are even more excited about the future and everything we will do in the days ahead to continue our momentum and further reinvent health care."
In 2011, WPAHS and its hospitals (Allegheny General, West Penn, Canonsburg, Allegheny Valley, and Forbes) were struggling financially when Highmark then primarily in the health insurance business proposed a strategic affiliation between the two organizations.
After nearly two years of negotiation and regulatory review, the merger was approved by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department on April 29, 2013. Highmark Health would be the new name of the parent company, while its new provider organization would be known as Allegheny Health Network.
That same year, two additional local hospital systems were brought into the fold to become part of AHN. On March 1, 2013, just weeks before the official creation of AHN, the hospital formerly known as Jefferson Regional Medical Center (now AHN Jefferson Hospital, based in Jefferson Hills, Pa.) joined Highmark's then-unnamed health care delivery system. And on July 9, 2013, Saint Vincent Health System in Erie, Pa., also joined the organization.
Since then, the network has grown dramatically, building six new large-scale multispecialty outpatient facilities (called Health + Wellness Pavilions), four new smaller-scale "neighborhood hospitals," one full-service 160-bed hospital in Wexford, Pa., and six new cancer centers located throughout Western Pennsylvania, including a new Cancer Institute hub on the campus of Allegheny General Hospital.
In the last decade, AHN has also opened two new obstetrical units, one at Jefferson Hospital in 2014, and one at the new AHN Wexford Hospital, which opened in 2021, and has completed major expansions of the emergency departments at AHN Saint Vincent and Jefferson, among many other investments.
Much of AHN's expansion was fueled by a billion-dollar, multi-year strategic investment campaign, which was announced by AHN and Highmark Health in October 2017: "We are listening to our patients and members and developing 21st-century care models, programs and facilities that place their health care needs and preferences at the center of everything we do," Holmberg said at the time.
In 2020, AHN also finalized an affiliation agreement with Grove City Medical Center, bringing the network's hospital count to 14. In total, AHN now operates more than 300 sites of care, and the network is staffed by more than 22,000 employees and approximately 2,600 credentialed physicians. It annually sees about 3.6 million patients in its physician practices, manages more than 1.7 million outpatient visits, treats more than 330,000 patients in its emergency departments, performs more than 100,000 surgical procedures, and delivers about 8,600 babies.
"Thanks to the significant investments that Highmark Health has made in AHN over the past 10 years, our communities today have better access to high quality health care and they are stronger economically because of our impact on jobs creation, the purchase of goods and services, and our community giving," said JamesBenedict, AHN president. "We are also advancing the frontier of health care though innovative medical research and robust academic programs that train the next generation of caregivers. So the foundation and infrastructure we have built at AHN is not only greatly improving the experience of people today, but it will continue to do so for many years to come."
Starting in 2020, the organization led the region's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a multi-faceted effort that culminated with a series of mass-vaccination clinics that took place at PNC Park, Erie Insurance Arena, DSG corporate headquarters, and many other large venues throughout 2021. In total, more than 500,000 vaccines were delivered in western Pennsylvania by AHN caregivers, and AHN hospitals cared for more than 44,000 COVID patients.
"Our organization's response to the pandemic required an enormous, unprecedented mobilization of leadership and resources that demonstrated the true value of the AHN-Highmark Health partnership in a very tangible way," Benedict said. "For instance, Highmark could not have organized such large-scale vaccination events without AHN's clinical and operational expertise. And AHN couldn't have done it without Highmark Health's organizational support and community relationships. But together, we were able to do remarkable, life-saving work, during one of the most challenging public health emergencies of our lifetimes."
While the first several years of affiliation were spent growing AHN's clinical footprint and fortifying its operational foundation, the last few years have been dedicated to strengthening the partnership between AHN and Highmark Health, honing the "Living Health" model that seeks to transform health care by leveraging data insights and clinical expertise to deliver better health outcomes, better patient and caregiver experiences, and more equitable access to resources all while lowering the overall costs of care.
Though Highmark Health and AHN are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their affiliation, both have much longer legacies of community service. Highmark Inc., which offers Blues-branded health insurance plans in four states, was formed through the merger of Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Blue Shield, both of which date to the 1930s. And while AHN was the successor to WPAHS which itself was created in 1999 many of its member hospitals are more than a century old. The oldest is Bloomfield's West Penn Hospital, which was chartered on March 18, 1848, and recently celebrated its 175th anniversary.
"There were doubters, especially early on, that an insurer and a health care provider could make it work, " said Donald Whiting, MD, AHN Chief Medical Officer and AHN's Neurosciences Institute Chair, who has been part of the AHN and WPAHS family for more than two decades. "But this relationship has proven to be an extraordinary success, and one that has allowed AHN to grow and flourish, expanding its leading-edge clinical programs and introducing new, world-class health care resources to so many of the communities we serve."
Highmark Health, a Pittsburgh, PA-based enterprise that employs more than 42,000 people who serve millions of Americans across the country, is the parent company of Highmark Inc., Allegheny Health Network, enGen, and Helion. Highmark Inc. and its subsidiaries and affiliates provide health insurance to 7 million members in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, and New York, as well as dental insurance, and related health products through a national network of diversified businesses. Allegheny Health Network is an integrated delivery network in western Pennsylvania comprised of 14 hospitals, more than 2,600 affiliated physicians, ambulatory surgery centers, an employed physician organization, home and community-based health services, a research institute, a group purchasing organization, and health and wellness pavilions. enGen is focused on meeting the information technology platform and other business needs of the Highmark Health enterprise as well as unaffiliated health insurance plans by providing proven business processes, expert knowledge, and integrated cloud-based platforms. Helion works with payers to cultivate high-performing networks while empowering providers to operate at their best. To learn more, visit www.highmarkhealth.org.