In the year since Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center announced a partnership with Hartford (Conn.) HealthCare, officials for the cancer center have found that the arrangement isn’t likely to be the only one.

“Actually, we’re fighting off the other opportunities,” says John Gunn, chief operating officer for Memorial Sloan Kettering. Several hospital organizations immediately wanted to become an affiliate. But they have to wait for the New York cancer center to get the first one right, which was announced in September 2013.

“When we first brought to our leadership the concept of this alliance,” says Wendy Perchick, senior vice president, “the first question was, ‘Are we going to help to improve care of patients with cancer outside of our own doors?’ If we were going to that — and that was the standard they were going to hold us to — then they were very enthusiastic about this.

“It is why there have been armies of people who have been at Hartford HealthCare,” she says. “We have so many interdisciplinary meetings going on, and so much review and discussion. At the end, if we expand this, it’s because we’re making a difference in the care provision that can be looked at, shown, published, etc.”

“We believe the Hartford experiment, if you will, is going to be an extraordinary success,” Gunn says. If it is, the center’s board would investigate creating an affiliate team that would work on partnerships on a continuing basis, he says.

One criterion for a partner would be cancer case volume, which is “a good proxy” for other qualifications, Perchick says. There also has to be a demonstrated interest in engaging in clinical trials, “which is really about a commitment to improving the standard of care.” In addition, prospective partners have to be planning or already have in place a clinically integrated organization. “It’s hard to provide cancer care in the 21st century without a lot of clinical integration. It’s really complex care now.”

That partly explains the slow-and-steady approach. What Memorial Sloan Kettering is trying to do at Hartford and, eventually, others “is essentially make these folks part of our system,” Gunn says. “This is a really important issue for us.”