Baton Rouge General and the independently-owned Baton Rouge Clinic have negotiated an exclusive deal that allows them to tap the resources of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

The two health care organizations are now part of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, a group of 47 independent health systems that have access to Mayo Clinic research and its specialists' expertise for evaluations and opinions on medical cases. Patients are not billed any extra money when a physician in the health network consults with doctors at the Mayo Clinic. Instead, the health system pays a fee to join the network.

The affiliation with the Mayo Clinic culminates a year of planning and a 10-month accreditation process for the General and Baton Rouge Clinic.  

Other hospital systems nearby in the network, which began in 2011, include Methodist Health System in Texas, Integris in Oklahoma, Unity Health in Arkansas and Baptist Health Care in Florida. The Mayo Clinic was founded more than 150 years ago and serves about 1.3 million patients each year. 

The affiliation gives patients access to second opinions and a review of medical cases by a Mayo Clinic specialist without having to travel to one of three Mayo Clinic sites around the country. Visiting a Mayo Clinic campus in person can be cumbersome and expensive for patients because it typically requires bringing a physical copy of medical records and an initial visit length up to seven days. If necessary, patients can still be referred to the Mayo Clinic's campuses. 

“Medicine is always evolving and it’s very difficult to keep track … being affiliated with somebody who has thousands of clinicians and clinical investigators can shine a light towards where medicine is going,” said Edgardo Tenreiro, chief executive officer of Baton Rouge General.

The Baton Rouge Clinic had been going through a similar process and the two organizations connected by chance for the joint deal. 

“Our president (Dr. Joel Silverberg), who trained at Mayo Clinic, started talking about it and looking into it a little bit,” said Ed Silvey, CEO of The Baton Rouge Clinic. “Edgardo and I just kind of bumped into each other one day and started talking about it, not knowing that both parties were interested in trying to do something" with the Mayo Clinic. 

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Sometimes patients have a difficult disease and want a second opinion but travel can be a barrier, said Silverberg, who  did a fellowship in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the Mayo Clinic's Rochester site in 1992. 

“This affiliation does not make a patient here an automatic patient of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester or any other 47 sites, it simply allows us to have resources and tools," said Dr. Louis Minsky, chief of staff at Baton Rouge General. 

"Information can be sent through digital channels to an expert at the Mayo Clinic and we can get a consult within five to seven days,” Minsky said, "without the patient getting on a plane, worrying about insurance and coverage and all the other hurdles that stop a patient from getting care or second opinion that they want to have. It allows them to stay right here at home with physicians they are comfortable with and have that extra bit of information that may help.”

There are five major facets of the deal, which offers more resources to physicians at Baton Rouge General and The Baton Rouge Clinic.

The first is an online tool known as AskMayoExpert, which offers clinical information for hundreds of medical conditions and treatment references as a database. Another resource is eConsults, allowing providers to connect online with Mayo Clinic specialists for advice about a patient's care. Other resources are eBoards, or interactive video conferences, but also inpatient telephone consults, a patient education library and archive access to Mayo Clinic presentations. Even best practices for medical policies for administration are available from Mayo Clinic.

All of these tools were created by Mayo Clinic because it had grown to 4,900 physicians who work together but sometimes remotely.

"We’re constantly sharing new things that we learn from other organizations within the network, as well as from the Mayo Clinic," said Dr. Ryan Uitti, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Care Network's Southeast Region and a neurologist by training. "It’s a way (for Mayo Clinic) to touch more patients than we would ever be able to touch individually through trusted partners."

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