Billings Clinic partnership with Mayo Clinic has been 'positive for patients,' physician says

2014-07-21T18:00:00Z 2014-07-22T13:35:14Z Billings Clinic partnership with Mayo Clinic has been 'positive for patients,' physician saysBy CINDY UKEN The Billings Gazette

When Billings Clinic opened its first ExpressCare Clinic in December 2013, it turned to a role model in the field. The Clinic sought the guidance of the Mayo Clinic, which got into the express-care retail clinic business at least five years earlier when it opened an express-care clinic at a shopping center in Rochester, Minn.

The Mayo Clinic was able to counsel the Clinic in what worked and what didn’t. Today, there are two ExpressCare clinics in Billings, one on the West End and one in the Heights. Third and fourth locations are set to open soon in stores at 1212 Grand Ave. and Sixth Street West and Central Avenue.

Dr. Nicholas Wolter, CEO of Billings Clinic, said what Mayo Clinic did with retail clinics “greatly influenced” how Billings placed retail clinics in Billings.

ExpressCare clinics offer patients a convenient, accessible and cost-effective care for minor medical problems.

That is only one of myriad benefits Billings Clinic has enjoyed because of its partnership with the Mayo Clinic.

“We now have a partner that is like-minded and patient-centered,” said Dr. Randall Gibb, gynecologic oncologist and chief medical officer for the Clinic. “It’s been very positive for our patients.”

Billings Clinic physicians are able to easily consult with Mayo Clinic physicians on difficult cases and get almost immediate feedback. Eighty percent of patients on whom physicians sought a consult were able to remain at home in Billings.

In January 2013, Billings Clinic announced it had entered into a one-year, renewable agreement with the Mayo Clinic Care Network, a nationwide affiliation of health organizations. The contract has since been renewed and Wolter said Monday he sees it being renewed for “many years to come.”

At the time it entered into the contract, Billings Clinic, with 285 beds, was the first hospital in Montana to pass Mayo’s review process to be selected as a member of the year-old network. It was the 12th hospital nationally to be included in the network, which now has 29 medical facilities.

The agreement formalized the long-standing relationship that Billings Clinic has had with physicians at Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education. Billings Clinic initiated the alliance, saying it was a logical step because it considers itself “a small Mayo Clinic,” and has long used the Mayo as a mentor. The agreement took effect in February 2013.

More than 340 physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants at Billings Clinic are able to connect with Mayo Clinic specialists on questions of patient care using an electronic consulting technique called e-consults. In 2013, providers in 18 specialty areas sought consults 107 times. In the first six months of this year, Mayo Clinic provided 76 e-consults.

Billings Clinic physicians also have access to Mayo-vetted medical information through the AskMayoExpert database. The clinic uses the web-based information system about 12 times a month.

Beyond the experts and consultations, Wolter said Mayo Clinic helped Billings Clinic form its relationship with hospitals in the region such as Beartooth Billings Clinic, Livingston HealthCare and Stillwater Billings Clinic in Columbus. Mayo Clinic has similar affiliations with 22 hospitals in 75 communities.

There is nothing in the agreement that requires either physicians or patients to use Mayo’s expertise.

Although Billings Clinic pays for the partnership with Mayo, there is no additional charge to Billings Clinic patients.

The partnership is a two-way street, said Dr. David Hayes, medical director of the Care Network. “It’s about relevance in a very rapidly changing health care environment,” he said. “Mayo Clinic wants to remain relevant when people need anything.”

The primary goal of the Mayo Clinic Care Network is to help people gain the benefits of Mayo Clinic knowledge and expertise close to home, ensuring that patients need to travel for care only when necessary.

The network creates a web of affiliated clinics and hospitals nationwide, which are likely to refer patients to Mayo’s destination medical centers in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida.

Mayo first launched the Care Network in North Dakota in 2011.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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