St. Alexius has joined a network of hospitals connected to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Joining the Mayo Clinic Care Network will allow St. Alexius physicians to connect electronically with Mayo specialists for second opinions, which may allow more patients to stay closer to home, according to St. Alexius and Mayo Clinic officials.
“Our membership in the Mayo Clinic Care Network will serve to further enhance the level of clinical expertise that our physicians and our patients have access to,” said Gary P. Miller, president and CEO of St. Alexius, at a press conference held at St. Alexius’ Boniface Auditorium on Monday morning.
Dr. David Hayes, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, said the network is relatively new. Mayo Clinic began discussing the idea two years ago and the first network member, Altru Health System of Grand Forks, joined the network about a year ago.
There are a total of 10 network members, including St. Alexius, nine of which are within the Mayo Clinic Care Network and one in the Mayo Clinic Cancer Care network, he said.
Other network members include Altru Health System, ASU Health Services of Arizona State University and Kingman Regional Medical Center in Arizona, Dartmouth-Hitchcock of New Hampshire and Vermont, Heartland Health of Missouri, NCH Healthcare System of Florida, NorthShore University HealthSystem of Illinois and Sparrow Health System of Michigan.
John Castleberry, St. Alexius board of directors chairman, emphasized that the collaboration is not an acquisition or merger.
“Like other Mayo Clinic Care Network members, St. Alexius will remain a community-owned, independent health care provider,” he said.
Miller said the hospital went through a “pretty rigorous review process” in which Mayo Clinic representatives visited St. Alexius and looked at St. Alexius’ quality of care and patient safety.
St. Alexius’ physicians will be able to connect with Mayo Clinic specialists on questions of patient care using an electronic consulting technique called eConsults.
Dr. Shiraz Hyder, a neurologist with St. Alexius, said the network’s main goal is to allow patients the benefits of Mayo knowledge and expertise, delivered as close to their homes as possible.
“I have colleagues at Mayo Clinic who are super experts,” Hyder said, explaining that he and other St. Alexius physicians may only see some rare disorders once or twice a year but Mayo physicians may see such disorders on a day-to-day basis. There are three neurologists at St. Alexius while there are 85 neurologists at Mayo Clinic, he said. Some of the Mayo neurologists specialize in specific disorders, such as stroke, epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease.
“Although we can handle, I would say, a majority of cases that come to St. Alexius, there are some cases that we would definitely like input from our colleagues that are super specialists,” he said.
Hyder used the tool for the first time last week when a patient from Minot came to St. Alexius for a second opinion.
“As we evaluated the patient ... it became clear to us this was a little bit of an unusual case, a more complex case. And right about that time, we were working on logistics of how to send eConsults,” he said.
Hyder submitted the eConsult to Mayo Clinic late last week and St. Alexius received feedback over the weekend. Hyder said he and the other neurologists were pleased to hear they were on the right track. Mayo physicians recommended a couple of additional tests to confirm the diagnosis, he said.
“For me, this was a classic example of a win-win-win,” he said. “Win for the patient, win for us because we have reassurance we are in the right track and a win for Mayo Clinic because that’s what they intended to do with this program.”
“We see this as a way for our patients to be served in their local community,” Miller said.
“We don’t expect to use it every day,” Hyder said, adding, “If there is a situation where we need to send a patient for face-to-face consultation (at Mayo Clinic), that of course we will do.”
The eConsults will be phased into St. Alexius, Hyder said. Over the next three months, all medical specialists will be trained to use eConsults. In the following six months, all medical and surgical specialists will be trained to use eConsults. Starting in July, St. Alexius Prime Care members will be trained, Hyder said.
Darleen Bartz, chief of the health resources section of the Department of Health, said she thought the collaboration would benefit patients.
“Any time you can access additional specialists to give thoughts on care, I would say that is a good thing,” she said.
Bartz said telemedicine has been around for several years and both St. Alexius and Medcenter One, prior to its merger with Sanford, have used it in the past.
“The concept of being able to consult electronically with another entity is not a new concept,” said Bartz. “What it sounds like is they’re formalizing that agreement with Mayo, which definitely gives them access to a lot of highly trained and skilled medical people.”
St. Alexius physicians also will have access to AskMayoExpert, which includes information on disease management, clinical care guidelines, treatment recommendations and reference materials, Hyder said.
Mayo Clinic also will provide St. Alexius with health care management consulting.
“I think that would be very useful to us,” Hyder said.
Sanford Health doesn’t have a formalized agreement with the Mayo Clinic but has worked with it in the past. Dr. Craig Lambrecht, president and CEO of Sanford Bismarck, said in a written statement, “We appreciate our historic relationship with Mayo as we have worked with and used technology to consult with them and various health partners for years to provide quality care and keep patients close to home.”
Lambrecht said that the recent merger with Sanford Health allows Sanford Bismarck access to 1,200 physicians “with incredible depth and breadth of expertise.”
Lambrecht wrote that Sanford Bismarck is working to integrate its technology with the rest of Sanford Health, which he called “the best electronic medical record platform in the country.”
“Sanford’s business model is different,” he wrote. “We are investing in care close to home by recruiting doctors, building clinics and adding services locally.”