Mayo and Cleveland Clinics Seek Docs Nationwide

To avoid being left behind as hospitals and physicians ally in advance of health reform, both the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics are extending their reach nationwide by separately affiliating with outside physicians. At a time when hospitalizations are declining, the two competitors—both of which already operate facilities and networks outside of their national referral centers—seek to broaden their reach into outpatient care.

The two clinics have already affiliated themselves with hospitals, American Medical News reports, and both say their goals are not explicitly to create referral streams to their own facilities. Mayo has 3,700 staff physicians and scientists at its hub in Rochester, Minn., and at campuses in Scottsdale, Ariz. and Jacksonville, Fla. Cleveland has 1,841 physicians and dentists in Ohio; Florida; Nevada; Toronto, Canada; and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The two organizations seek mid- to large-size, single-specialty group practices, and some of these groups already may be affiliated with other organizations. Mayo and Cleveland have not signed any partners or said when they will announce their first deals. The two health giants have not said whether their affiliations will be set up as accountable care organizations (ACO).

The Mayo Clinic launched its hospital affiliate program May 18 with Altru Health System based in Grand Forks, N.D. The Mayo Clinic label will be on Altru’s signs, and its physicians will be able to access Mayo’s evidence-based disease management protocols, clinical care guidelines, and treatment recommendations. Altru, which includes a hospital and more than a dozen clinics, has long collaborated with Mayo, but this contract formalizes the arrangement.

“While others quickly consolidate to address health care reform and an uncertain reimbursement environment, at Mayo we are focused on further developing our integrated model of practice, education and research, as well as a range of external affiliations and relationships, to give more people seamless access to the knowledge and expertise of Mayo Clinic,” said John Noseworthy, MD, Mayo Clinic’s president and CEO.

Other industries have had a tradition of deals that involve applying a well-recognized name to another company’s product, and they are increasingly common in the health setting. Cleveland Clinic launched such a program seven years ago and has about a half-dozen affiliates. MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa. also operate affiliate programs.

Branding experts say the key to maintaining the value of such an arrangement is having an appropriate vetting process on both sides. Affiliated institutions must exercise caution in how the nature of the relationship is communicated to patients to avoid misunderstandings about who is providing care.

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