When the wife of a Methodist Health System executive was diagnosed with a rare and complex cancer, she received treatment in Dallas then flew to Minnesota for further consultations with physicians at the Mayo Clinic. For the next 12 months, she split her time here and there for various procedures.
After she finished her treatment regimen, Dr. Stephen Mansfield, the system’s CEO, was so impressed with her outcome that a thought crept into his head: What if there was a way for Mayo to export its services to patients at Methodist?
About four years later, there is. Mansfield announced Tuesday that Methodist is the first Texas healthcare system to join the Mayo Clinic Care Network, an alignment that will enable the Dallas-based provider’s 1,500 physicians to electronically access Mayo’s resources and expertise.
Methodist is the 31st nationwide partner to join the network, which Mayo started in 2011. Dr. David Hayes, the network’s medical director, said Methodist will be the exclusive North Texas partner. There are currently no plans to expand to any other system in the state.
“Our aspiration is to provide perfect evidence-based medicine,” Mansfield said. “We see the relationship with Mayo and the tools that Mayo brings into that relationship as the greatest synergy we can bring to that that can help us rapidly accelerate our progression in that direction.”
The Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic is one of the nation’s most respected healthcare providers. This summer, U.S. News and World Report declared it the best hospital system in the United States, ranking it No. 1 in eight of the 16 specialties the magazine judges each year.
It’s neither a merger nor an acquisition: Mansfield classified the agreement as a “clinical collaboration.” There is an undisclosed cost involved, although Mansfield said the payments are structured so that patients will not foot the bill.
By joining the Mayo Care Network, Methodist physicians can file eConsults with Mayo specialists should they have a question about a patient’s care. They can upload X-Rays, notes, lab results, or other media to be triaged out to a Mayo specialist who can provide clinical advice.
The network also allows Methodist to access AskMayoExpert, an online database of information compiled by Mayo physicians regarding disease management, clinical care, treatment and rehabilitation options, and reference materials. There’s also what Mayo calls the eTumor board. Cancer doctors, from oncologists to radiologists, can share a patient’s malady and collectively develop ways to treat it.
“Part of what we do is a sharing of best practices,” Hayes says. “If Mayo Clinic has done something in the past, we have a very organized framework of how we did it and how we would do it again if we were to change it. If Methodist says, ‘we want to do the same thing,’ rather than start from scratch, they can take that and move things along much faster. We’ve had definite reports back about the outcomes they’ve achieved with that and that they’ve been able to achieve them much faster.”
Since its launch in 2011, Mayo has partnered with 31 facilities in 18 states, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Typically, Hayes said, the hopeful partner reaches out to Mayo and starts the conversations. From there come meetings. And after board approval, Mayo representatives travel to the potential partner to conduct a “rigorous” due diligence process, which takes more than a year.
Mansfield called this “accreditation on steroids.”
For Methodist’s part, the deal was inked in the final days of August. All of the system’s physicians were notified of the partnership Monday night at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. The rest of the employees learned of the pairing in a companywide email. The public found out first in a full-page ad placed in Tuesday’s Dallas Morning News.
“We’ve found resounding support,” Mansfield said. “Mayo is such a strong brand in healthcare so adding them to Methodist’s strong brand is just accretive.”
Mayo—which has locations in Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida—chooses its partners carefully. It also wants to be one of the few brands to have a successful national footprint in the wake of the rapidly changing healthcare marketplace.
So there is no geographic strategy, Hayes says. Initially, the system aimed to partner with facilities within 700 miles of its own locations. But as time went on, Hayes said that proved too limited.
Instead, the choice is derived more from the quality of the potential partner. Mayo looks at the network as a way to reach into markets where it has little presence. According to Mansfield, about 1,000 Dallas-area residents and 4,500 statewide sought care from the Mayo Clinic last year.
Methodist, meanwhile, has seen its revenue jump from $450 million when Mansfield took over eight years ago to $1.1 billion today. It’s grown from two hospitals in 2006 to its current seven. The amount of primary care physicians has also tripled, Mansfield said.
“This is really about relevance in large part,” Hayes said. “There may not be many patients from Texas that would ever need our services or want to travel that far, but we would like to be top of mind. We want to be relevant and so if joining our brand with another strong brand increases both, then it’s a success.”
The contract does not have an expiration date, although Mansfield said both parties can evaluate whether to continue the partnership each year.