When Scott Franz’s pancreatic cancer reoccured earlier this year, his doctor at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital had to come up with a new aggressive treatment plan.
Part of that plan was accessing the expert knowledge of Mayo Clinic physicians.
UnityPoint Health in Cedar Rapids announced in May that it was part of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, an international group of 30 other organizations that receive health care consulting on difficult and complex cases from the Rochester, Minn.-based medical research organization.
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 ever having to leave Cedar Rapids.
The health care organization is the first in Iowa to join the network.
Franz said that while he has full confidence in his doctor here, knowing he was able to consult with experts from the Mayo Clinic really reinforced his treatment plan.
“It made me feel more comfortable,” he said
Seven months into this collaboration, both the hospital’s doctors and patients like Franz are taking advantage of the services, said Ted Townsend, UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids president and Chief Executive Officer.
About 20 patients each month receive eConsults with medical specialists, according to the hospital, which is more than it originally projected.
Additionally, physicians used the “Ask a Mayo Expert” service more than 2,600 times. This web-based feature allows doctors to connect with expert clinical information on hundreds of medical conditions at any time of day.
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“The utilization of this service is substantial,” Townsend said. “All seem to be signs of success to me.”
He added that doctors from a wide range of specialties are using the service, which is free to patients as the St. Luke’s Foundation has made a commitment to pay for it. In addition to oncologists, Townsend said neurologists, pediatricians, pulmonologists, and primary care physicians are taking advantage of the arrangement.
And the hospital estimates that being able to consult with Mayo Clinic doctors from a Cedar Rapids office has saved 4 out 6 patients a trip to the Mayo Clinic.
“This really is a knowledge partnership,” Townsend said. ”And we’re really tapping into that knowledge.”