Affiliate Agreements with Major Centers Benefit Local, National Caregivers

It is possible that within a few years, if your providers are challenged with a difficult or unusual case, an email to a major clinic such as the Mayo or Cleveland will help resolve the patient’s woes. Facilities and medical groups affiliated with these centers are already reaping benefits.

An article in The Atlantic Monthly highlights efforts by the Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo to affiliate with entities across the country. The well-known clinic has begun affiliating with hospitals and health systems, expanding its reach while acting as a resource for physicians faced with medical cases not seen in the area. Mayo, like Cleveland, Danville, Pa.’s Geisinger Health Systems, and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, is looking nationwide as part of this strategy. Mayo has proven the most aggressive pursuer of affiliates so far.

The affiliation benefits the provider, who can consult physicians at the Mayo on cases rare in smaller facilities, but often seen at Mayo and the Mayo Clinic, which seeks to expand beyond its medical centers in Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida and its chain of community clinics and hospitals in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“Our model has been that the patients come to us,” said Dr. John Noseworthy, Mayo’s president and chief executive officer, at a February press conference. “Increasingly, going forward … we also wish to extend the reach of the Mayo Clinic, taking our knowledge, taking our experience, and sharing it with others.”

Physician Michael Brown said in The Atlantic article, “For a bread and butter obstetrician like me, it’s amazing to feel that the Mayo Clinic has your back.”

How the Model Works

Affiliated physicians can consult electronically with Mayo specialists about patients who are difficult to diagnose or treat within 24 hours. The proprietary electronic system also allows physicians to speak directly with Mayo physicians. These patients go to the front of the line ahead of others seeking Mayo consultations. However, the goal isn’t to increase consultations or referrals, Mayo told The Atlantic.

“They haven’t been aggressive about pushing referrals,” said Brian Turney, chief executive of Kingman Regional, which has brought six Mayo-trained radiologists onto its staff since announcing the affiliation last October.

A nearby health system is sending fewer patients to Mayo’s campus than before the affiliation, it claims, pointing out that the affiliation allows the health system to bring the resources of the Mayo to it. Affiliates also get access to AskMayoExpert, an extensive Mayo-created database that includes so-called “care pathways,” spelling out what should be done, when, and how, for patients with various medical conditions. And they receive consulting services from Mayo experts on matters such as improving patient satisfaction, creating better systems to monitor quality care, or building medical teams that collectively manage patients. Although affiliates can advertise the relationship, they can’t claim they’re officially part of the Mayo Clinic.

In exchange, “We would hope that they will think of us if a complex patient needs to leave the community,” Dr. David Hayes, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, told The Atlantic. Mayo staff carefully vet candidates to determine if they’re financially stable, well run, and if their values and medical culture are compatible.

Current members of the Mayo Clinic Care Network are NCH Healthcare System of Naples, Fla.; Dartmouth-Hitchcock of Lebanon, N.H.; Altru Health System of Grand Forks, N.D.; Arizona State University Health Services of Tempe, Ariz.; Heartland Health of St. Joseph, Mo.; Kingman Regional Medical Center of Kingman, Ariz.; and Sparrow Health System of Lansing, Mich.

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