Mt. Lebanon’s St. Clair Hospital joins Mayo Clinic Care Network
When baseball legend Lou Gehrig started to feel the effects of the disease that eventually bore his name, his quest for a diagnosis took him to where the experts were located: Rochester, Minn.
“His complaint was that he was aging faster than a ballplayer should, and his extra-base hits were turning into singles,” Dr. Ryan Uitti said. “Unfortunately, he had a fair amount of weakness at the time he was seen.”
Uitti is medical director, provider relations, for the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic, which already was recognized as the nation’s go-to health care organization when Gehrig visited in the late 1930s.
Today, a trip to the Mayo is effectively as close as traveling to Mt. Lebanon.
As announced Aug. 24, St. Clair Hospital has become the 41st and only regional member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, through which local hospitals share resources with the venerable institution.
“About five years ago, we started a new activity where we would partner with other groups, in a collaborative way,” Uitti explained, “not going down the merger/acquisition route, but to work with physicians and others who are taking care of patients at a distance.”
Dr. Alan Yeasted, St. Clair’s chief medical officer, agreed with the nature of the partnership.
“We’re going to remain independent,” he said. “That’s what we always want to be.”
At the heart of the care network is tool that is available to member organization, called Ask a Mayo Expert.
“A person could, electronically, find a topic and learn quite a bit about the topic in a way that would help you take care of a patient that day or that evening,” Uitti said. “It’s a tool that is available to our 4,200 physicians, and which we’re now making use of throughout the network. So St. Clair, all of their physicians, all of their nurses, everyone on their staff, could access that same tool.”
Another tool, designed with time efficiency for patients in mind, is eConsult, by which physicians can tap the knowledge of the world’s foremost subspecialists, often with regard to relatively rare conditions.
“The really great advantage for our physicians is the expertise of Mayo in certain types of tumors,” Yeasted said. “Cancer is a leading cause of death in this country, and Mayo has specialists in very small portions of cancer that we might not see very often.”
Michael Flanagan, chief operating officer at St. Clair, pointed out an advantage from his standpoint.
“The other very attractive element to this relationship is the fact that we’re adding value to the patients we care for today,” he said. “There’s not a fee associated with any of these services to patients, to their payer, to their insurer or to their employer.”
The hospital’s point person in helping to form the collaboration was Meredith Borst, executive director of strategic initiatives, who provided reassurances about confidentiality.
“Patient privacy is a high priority for us,” she said. “Any time that we share patient information with the Mayo Clinic, is sent through a secure connection, which remains confidential.”
The care network is intended as a two-way street, according to Uitti.
“We anticipate learning from St. Clair, as well,” he said. “Part of what we’ve found is that perhaps we’re serving as a cross-pollinator, because every group with whom we’ve worked has taught us something. So collectively, as a network, I think there’s a lot of advantage to learning from experience.”