Patient Care

Strong Memorial Hospital Earns Blue Distinction Specialty Care Designation for Cellular Immunotherapy – CAR-T

Feb. 8, 2019
Patrick Reagan, M.D.
Patrick Reagan, M.D.

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield recognizes Strong Memorial Hospital as one of the first hospitals to receive a designation under the new Blue Distinction® Centers for Cellular Immunotherapy – CAR-T program, part of the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program. Blue Distinction Centers are nationally designated hospitals that show a commitment to delivering improved patient safety and better health outcomes, based on objective measures that were developed with input from the medical community and leading accreditation and quality organizations.

In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapies to treat certain types of patients with leukemia (Kymriah®) and lymphoma (Yescarta® and Kymriah®). An estimated 143,480 people were diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma in 2018.[1] CAR-T therapy offers new options for many after other treatments stop working, by redesigning the patient’s own immune cells, which usually fight infections, to fight cancer cells instead. The new Blue Distinction Center for Cellular Immunotherapy – CAR-T program designates hospitals that use evidence-based practices to deliver CAR-T therapies.

To receive a Blue Distinction Center for Cellular Immunotherapy – CAR-T designation, hospitals must be certified by a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program which is required by the FDA to provide CAR-T therapies and must be accredited by the Foundation for Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT), including Standards for Immune Effector Cells. Additionally, designated hospitals must commit to systemwide monitoring and reporting of CAR-T patient outcomes, through the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR) registry. Designated hospitals will also have a payment model in place that includes patient protection against mark-up over their wholesale acquisition cost for CAR-T specialty pharmacy products.

Since CAR-T therapies were recently introduced into clinical use, the designation criteria were created to begin to acknowledge the expertise needed to deliver these new treatments.

“We are proud to be among the first centers to achieve the Blue Distinction designation for CAR-T therapy,” said Patrick Reagan, M.D., who has led the efforts at Strong Memorial Hospital to bring CAR-T therapy to the Rochester region. “Strong was one of the first hospitals in New York to offer CAR-T therapy commercially, and we have treated more than 30 patients to date. Providing this state-of-the-art treatment requires multidisciplinary expertise in nursing, critical care and neurology, as well as blood and marrow transplantation/cellular therapy. We are committed to quality in these areas and to achieving the best possible outcomes for patients in our region who need CAR-T therapy.”

Since 2006, the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program has helped patients find quality specialty care in the areas of bariatric surgery, cancer care, cardiac care, cellular immunotherapy, fertility care, gene therapy, knee and hip replacements, maternity care, spine surgery, and transplants, while encouraging health care professionals to improve the care they deliver. Research for many programs shows that, compared to other providers, those designated as Blue Distinction Centers demonstrate better quality and improved outcomes for patients.

For more information about the program and for a complete listing of the designated providers, visit

UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial Hospital is upstate New York’s premier teaching and research hospital. The 846-bed facility boasts a regional trauma and burn center, pioneering transplant programs, esteemed programs for conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, epilepsy, and other neuromuscular illnesses, as well as tertiary care pediatric services delivered through the Golisano Children’s Hospital. To learn more, visit

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, a nonprofit independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association, is part of a family of companies that finances and delivers vital health care services to about 1.5 million people across upstate New York. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield provides access to high-quality, affordable health coverage, including valuable health-related resources that our members use every day, such as cost-saving prescription drug discounts and wellness tracking tools. To learn more, visit

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About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

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About Blue Distinction Centers

Blue Distinction Centers (BDC) met overall quality measures, developed with input from the medical community. A Local Blue Plan may require additional criteria for providers located in its own service area; for details, contact your Local Blue Plan. Blue Distinction Centers+ (BDC+) also met cost measures that address consumers’ need for affordable healthcare. Each provider’s cost of care is evaluated using data from its Local Blue Plan. Providers in CA, ID, NY, PA, and WA may lie in two Local Blue Plans’ areas, resulting in two evaluations for cost of care; and their own Local Blue Plans decide whether one or both cost of care evaluation(s) must meet BDC+ national criteria. National criteria for BDC and BDC+ are displayed on Individual outcomes may vary. For details on a provider’s in-network status or your own policy’s coverage, contact your Local Blue Plan and ask your provider before making an appointment. Neither Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association nor any Blue Plans are responsible for non-covered charges or other losses or damages resulting from Blue Distinction or other provider finder information or care received from Blue Distinction or other providers.