President's Perspective: Why Mayo

St. Luke's Hospital Cedar Rapids

What is this new collaboration between UnityPoint Health - Cedar Rapids and Mayo Clinic all about?

I'll admit, this journey started out as a competitive advantage, but over the last year our motivation has matured and changed a hundred and eighty degrees. We knew this collaboration would offer a clinical advantage to our patients but what came as a pleasant additional surprise was the value it brought to our physicians. In the end, we did this because our physicians saw the advantage of the best of both worlds; full utilization of local physicians and specialists, with the added value of layering on the Mayo Clinic expertise, all while keeping our patients here in Cedar Rapids. The fact that we could do this at no additional cost to the patient made it even better.

We're already seeing the results. In the first month of the collaboration, before even half of our physicians are fully engrained on the program, we've had fifteen eConsults go to Mayo. Satisfaction is high on both the patient and local provider side. Our first eConsult was in cardiology. One of our senior physicians, Dr. Todd Langager, had a difficult diagnosis. He thought he was seeing a condition he'd only seen four times in his thirty-plus years of practice. He thought he knew what to do, but was hoping for confirmation before setting his patient and family on a course that has serious implications for them all. He gathered up his electronic notes, lab test results, the relevant digital images and patient history. Then he sent it electronically to Mayo. Eighteen hours later he had the eConsult result from a Mayo physician, who is a world-renowned expert on this disease. Dr. Langager had the correct diagnosis and was on the right track. There were a couple additional things he could consider also doing and, oh yes, on the AskMayoExpert website was a twenty-nine page patient education brochure he was welcome to give the patient about her rare condition. The family was ecstatic. They had a diagnosis. They had confidence that the best minds in the country were dealing with her difficult condition, and they had expert, reliable education materials in their hand within hours to help them.

And that was just the beginning. A local cancer patient who has been receiving care at Mayo for several years asked her Mayo physician if with this program in Cedar Rapids, might she be able to receive her care at home. The physician studied her record, consulted with an independent medical oncologist in Cedar Rapids, and agreed that, yes, she could. Now she has the best of both worlds, a Mayo level of expertise overlaying her care right here in Cedar Rapids.

Physicians have access to more than 1,400 care protocols from AskMayoExpert on their desktops. When their patient has a question about their care, would like a second opinion, or just some additional peace of mind, the physician can pull up the protocol right in the exam room and say, "Here's how Mayo would treat this".

And Mayo's not being passive. Twice already physicians have queried the AskMayoExpert for information on a condition where there was not a published protocol. Mayo staff called within hours to say "We saw that you had an unsuccessful search on AskMayoExpert, what were you looking for?" In both cases Mayo proactively went to their physicians and provided additional information and guidance.

We have wonderful physicians here in Cedar Rapids. We have strong primary care, excellent specialists and we have the University of Iowa just down the road for cases that will need their level of services. Now we have something to add to even these resources for our community. This model fits our culture. It's about disseminating knowledge so patients can receive more care closer to home. It's about preserving and honoring local physicians' care and enhancing them versus trying to replace them.

So far Care Network members are seeing that roughly four out of five people who historically may have gone to a Mayo site can be taken care of at home. That's good for us and our patients. Getting through the year-long due diligence process to be selected to the Network was a challenge, but one UnityPoint Health - Cedar Rapids gladly accepted. When we recently attended the Network's annual meeting we met folks from around the country, from all kinds of organizations large and small, from academic medical centers to stand alone community hospitals. What the Mayo folks said was our single common denominator was the quality of care we all already give. They weren't going to put their name on anything less.

Sounds like a good "why" to me.