Northwest Health announced Tuesday (April 17) it has joined the Mayo Clinic Care Network, giving its patients access to speciality consults and second opinions from the more than 3,300 doctors at the Rochester, Minn.,-based health care behemoth.
Northwest Health, which is owned by Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems, follows Unity Health of Searcy to become the second hospital in Arkansas to subscribe to Mayo Clinic services.
“Physicians in our community will collaborate with Mayo Clinic physicians to improve the delivery of health care for patients through high-quality, data-driven medical care and treatment. Our patients gain the benefits of Mayo Clinic expertise within their own communities,” said Dr. James Tanner, chief medical officer at Northwest Health.
He told Talk Business & Politics the added services come at no added cost to Northwest Health patients because the hospital is underwriting the one-year subscription fee. He declined to say how much the subscription cost, but said it was an investment in patient care and will be a resource for doctors who want to provide a higher level of care given the subspecialty expertise on staff at Mayo.
Dr. David Hayes, medical director for the Mayo Clinic Care Network, told Talk Business & Politics the program originated in 2011 and has grown to more than 40 hospitals in 26 states as well six countries including Mexico to Singapore. He said Northwest Health initiated the conversation to join the network about a year ago and a due diligence process began about 10 months ago. He said Mayo does a thorough job vetting hospitals and health systems before they are accepted.
“We want to ensure our partners have the same patient-centered philosophy as Mayo. … We have had lots of conversations with hospitals who want to join but not all are seeking a higher level of patient care which is the cornerstone of our program,” Hayes said.
Hayes said with five hospitals in the Northwest system and in a growing metro area, Mayo saw the partnership hitting in their “sweet spot.” He said the partnership will benefit both hospitals.
Tanner said if a patient at Northwest Health wants a second opinion or if the treating physician is seeking to consult with speciality experts they can converse electronically with Mayo specialists. When a second opinion is wanted the local doctor uploads all of the patient records and receives a written consultation within two days. He said if their patient is in the hospital and the need is acute there is a one-hour service.
He said local doctors can also access treatment protocols for conditions studied at Mayo like Chronic-Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Tanner said because the Mayo Clinic is studying a large number of diseases it could be beneficial for local doctors to access the latest treatment protocol based on recent data.
Hayes said local doctors also have the ability to interact with a multidisciplinary panel of Mayo Clinic specialists and other member via video conference to review and discuss the management of complex cases.
Dr. Andrea Read, medical director for the Northwest-Sparks Quality Alliance, said bridging trust with patients on a local level is critical and then being able to access the very best treatment protocol in the country on their behalf is a huge benefit because the patient doesn’t have to leave home to get it.
Fort Smith-based Sparks Health System is also owned by Community Health Systems, but patients there are not included in the Mayo network.
Hugh and Nicole Jarrett of Fayetteville, told Talk Business & Politics, they have each traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota seeking specialty care. Nicole was there earlier this year for migraines which requires several follow ups. Hugh Jarrett said knowing that Northwest Health can access that level of care is a huge win for them because with two small children travel and extended stays in Minnesota are a challenge.
“I think this is a wonderful thing for the people of Northwest Arkansas because we have always received the very best care from Mayo,” he added.
Hayes said there will be a six month-formal review later this year.
“We want to make sure the local doctors are using the network to its fullest potential and will have a person on the ground here regularly to facilitate the connections.”