Patients in the Corrdior with complex medical conditions have had to travel some distance outside the area for treatment from specialists at health care centers such as MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio or the Mayo Clinic in the Rochester, Minn.
But UnityPoint Health in Cedar Rapids announced Thursday that it is now part of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, an international group of 27 other organizations that receive health care consulting on difficult and complex cases from the medical research organization.
The health care organization is the first in Iowa to join the network, officials told The Gazette.
The selection process was a rigorous one that took more than a year to finalize, said UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids president and Chief Executive Officer Ted Townsend.
“This is validation of the quality of care given at St. Luke’s for decades,” he said.
“We believe this collaboration with Mayo Clinic elevates health care standards for the region.”
The network membership means that St. Luke’s Hospital and its clinics — which are a part of UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids — are now able to consult with Mayo Clinic through various services to receive consultations, treatment recommendations and reference materials without the patient every having to leave Cedar Rapids.
Dr. Todd Langager, a cardiologist at the hospital, said UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids’s doctors can send information, including lab tests, x-rays and health records, to Mayo Clinic to receive a second opinion within two business days.
“You walk in with a certain condition that is complex or rare and a specialist may have an idea on the course of treatment,” he said. “But we can now access tools to make sure that we are either on the initial right track … or we want to arrange for Mayo Clinic to review the case.”
This is all at no additional consultation cost to the patient. UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids will pay an annual fee that is based on the frequency it uses Mayo Clinic’s services, Townsend said.
St. Luke’s Foundation is paying for the first year. Townsend said he is unsure what future years will cost, but estimates it will be in the six figures.
He believes a wide range of doctors will be able to take advantage of this new collaboration, including pulmonary, kidney and cardiology specialists, pediatricians, oncologists and neurosurgeons.
He also estimates hundreds of patients will benefit each year, citing that 561 patients living in Cedar Rapids who visited the Mayo Clinic in 2012.
Langager estimated that 10 percent of St. Luke’s patients have conditions or illnesses complex enough to use the consultation services.
The Mayo Clinic Care Network began five years ago as the organization put together its strategic plan, said Dr. David Hayes, the network’s medical director, in a telephone interview on Monday.
“We looked carefully on how to position Mayo in the future to deal with the big changes in health care,” he said.
Mayo saw two paths, he said, one that led down an aggressive approach filled with mergers and acquisitions, or a second, more collaborative path that allowed it to form relationships with hospitals and health groups rather than acquire them.
Mayo and all its member hospitals benefit from the network, he said. While members receive additional expertise and continuing medical education opportunities, Mayo is able to maintain its relevance and be more flexible.
But most important, Hayes said, it benefits the patient.
“Whenever we can keep patients close to home, it’s good for the patient and good for the organization,” he said.
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