Joining part of a health care network, Rockford’s Saint Anthony Hospital is stepping up its ability to create a better patient experience.
“Two heads are better than one.”
Everyone has heard this saying many times. Now it’s proving true in an innovative networking program recently established between Rockford’s OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center and the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Based on the idea that, by working together, separate medical entities can achieve better patient care, OSF and Mayo Clinic are building a rapport through shared information and experience.
The network is not a merger, but a professional collaboration that includes all disciplines of medicine.
OSF was selected to join the Mayo Clinic Care Network nearly one year ago, after a rigorous review process that took into account its service, quality and operational criteria. Dr. James Girardy, OSF chief surgical officer and board-certified general and critical care surgeon, describes the collaboration as an excellent way to elevate the quality and scope of care for every disease and disorder, providing OSF patients with the very best of care.
“We visited the Mayo Clinic and they came here to assess our facilities and operations,” Girardy says. “After due diligence, we agreed to an arrangement that enables us to collaborate on a number of levels.”
The network consists of like-minded medical organizations that share the goal of providing high-quality, collaborative treatments for their respective communities.
By working closely together, OSF and the Mayo Clinic are developing a relationship that will deepen and expand to meet the unique needs of patients now and in the future. As new medications, technology and treatment options are introduced, this colleague-based rapport will enable OSF to respond to every patient’s illness with the most up-to-date care.
“It’s been an exciting and growing experience,” says Girardy. “Through the Mayo Clinic, we’ve gained tools we use on a daily basis to strengthen our ability to treat patients.
These tools include diagnosis, disease management, treatment recommendations and referrals, all available in electronic bedside mode.”
Called AskMayoExpert, the program provides an enormous menu of information that’s only a click away, Girardy explains. In fact, this fully accessible wealth of medical information is the same bedside tool available to doctors treating patients who are actually admitted to Mayo Clinic.
“The second tool we have through Mayo is e-Consult,” Girardy says. “Any OSF doctor can connect directly with the Mayo Clinic if complications arise or if there’s a question about how to proceed with a patient’s treatment. We can share pathology, x-rays and treatment details with the expectation of response within 48 hours. It’s like having a world-class panel of medical consultants right here at OSF.”
Yet another tool OSF can use to aid patients is Mayo Clinic’s cancer tumor board. Girardy says OSF presents specific cases to the tumor board for review.
Dr. Shivi Jain, board-certified Hematologist and Oncologist, says networking with Mayo Clinic’s tumor board enhances the high quality care OSF patients already receive.
“We face a lot of issues in an ever-changing field,” Jain explains. “While we work hand-in-hand at OSF Saint Anthony, it’s impossible to keep up with all the advances. It helps to be able to call on experts and receive the benefits of their experiences and knowledge.”
Through the OSF/Mayo network, Jain works with Mayo oncologists every Monday and Tuesday in video conferences that may also include specialists from additional medical centers.
“On Monday, we present lung cancer cases,” Jain says. “On Tuesday, we cover breast cancer. It’s just like having the Mayo Clinic right here in the hospital. This week, I presented an early stage lung cancer case. While it was successfully treated with surgery, we discussed the need for testing for EGFR and ALK mutations on her tumor and the implications these test results would have on her further management.”
Jain points out that this high-level support serves a dual purpose.
“In working with the Mayo Clinic, we’re talking to the experts who, in many cases, formulated the guidelines for current cancer treatment,” Jain says. “From another perspective, our patients are reassured and appreciate having an additional opinion from one of the nation’s most respected sources.”
Whenever Jain has questions or concerns about any kind of cancer treatment, she has access to e-Consults, which uses digital technology to provide answers to specific complex cases including diagnosis, therapy and care management. She also can access AskMayoExpert, an online database containing the very latest medical information and clinical resources about every aspect of cancer treatment.
“Our patients receive the benefit of Mayo Clinic’s resources right here in Rockford,” Jain adds. “We receive the benefits of its vast experience to provide even better patient care.”
Patients never pay for the networking service and there’s no obligation for OSF to refer patients to the Mayo Clinic. The primary goal of the Mayo Clinic Care Network is to help more patients gain the benefits of Mayo Clinic knowledge and expertise, close to home, ensuring they need not travel outside the region for care unless it’s absolutely necessary.
“It always helps to have our diagnosis and treatment plans affirmed and reinforced by others in our fields,” Jain concludes. “It builds our confidence by not only validating what we believe, but also by increasing our knowledge, constantly. By working together, we have a huge platform of expertise on which we can call instantly.”
Girardy adds that the ability of OSF doctors to participate in telephone conferences to discuss processes, complications, disease management and other aspects of day-to-day patient care is of vital importance.
“Regardless of the type of disease being discussed, we can put together a group of experts via telephone conferences to talk about techniques and procedures,” Girardy says. “They talk about what has been tried, what works, where to look for more information or resources, policies and other issues.”
OSF observed the first anniversary of its collaboration with Mayo Clinic this April. The first year has been an exhilarating experience, with results that have surpassed expectations, says Girardy.
“We’ve already enjoyed multiple benefits of this professional relationship,” he says. “It’s been positive on both sides, and I expect it not only to continue, but also to broaden in the range of OSF doctors brought onboard.
“Immediate access to the strong foundation of the Mayo Clinic’s medical expertise will continue to bring the finest and most up-to-date treatments to our patients at OSF Saint Anthony. And this shared knowledge will ultimately help other medical centers across the country to achieve the same excellent level of care that OSF provides.”