Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing Photographer / Brian Brosmer
For years, the team at Hancock Health has been on a quest to elevate themselves by focusing on patient safety and quality patient experience. In an effort to take that a step further, CEO Steve Long reached out to Mayo Clinic late last year to ask about joining the Mayo Clinic Care Network, which is a select group of independent health-care providers, carefully vetted by Mayo Clinic and granted special access to Mayo’s clinical, educational, research and operational knowledge, expertise and resources.
“I knew this was an exclusive group so I didn’t even know if they’d have a conversation with us, but they looked at our quality scores and our culture, and were impressed,” says Long, noting that Hancock was the second hospital in Indiana to partner with the Mayo Clinic.
Created in 2011, the Mayo Clinic Care Network has 47 member organizations across the U.S., Asia, India, Mexico and the Middle East.
“Hancock Health has always been an innovative health-care organization,” Long says. “This relationship with the Mayo Clinic elevates our ability to take care of the sickest of patients right here close to home with no additional cost to them.”
Hancock Health, along with Hendricks Regional Health and Johnson Memorial Health, are part of a collaborative called Suburban Health Organization, which is comprised of community-based Indiana hospitals who work together to improve access to the highest-quality health care. They all work together to increase their ability to provide excellent local care. It made sense, then, for Hendricks Regional Health and Johnson Memorial Health to join the dialogue and coordinate with the Mayo Clinic as well.
Hancock is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. This, of course, means that people coming into the county may not be familiar with Hancock Health’s history or level of quality. Mayo Clinic’s reputation, however, is golden as it is one of the top hospitals in the world, and it has been recognized globally as the world leader in high-acuity health care.
“That immediately gives us elevation of the brand, but what really matters is what it does for our patients,” Long says.
Suppose a patient sees their primary-care physician at Hancock and is told that they suspect they have cancer. After being referred to the oncology center and getting advice on next steps, most patients would seek a second opinion. In the past, the patient might go downtown to IU Health, St. Vincent or Community Health. Now, however, Hancock can send records electronically to Mayo Clinic.
“Who wouldn’t want the Mayo Clinic to look at their case?” Long says. “It brings an additional level of expertise that we didn’t have access to before. Now our experts have experts at the Mayo Clinic.”
Through Hancock’s membership in the Mayo Clinic Care Network, their physicians have access to Mayo Clinic clinical solutions and services, including AskMayoExpert, a database of clinical information on hundreds of medical conditions; eConsults, which enable physicians to contact Mayo Clinic specialists for second opinions on specific patient cases; health-care consulting, which provides access to Mayo’s extensive experience, knowledge and subspecialty expertise; and eBoards, live video conferences that enable medical teams to virtually review and discuss complex cases with Mayo Clinic specialists.
Jason Wells, director of Gateway and Mayo Clinic network relationship, notes that the Mayo Clinic is who first established the collaboration of care.
“They are the model that does it best, [recognizing] that the patient is at the center of it all,” says Wells, who describes a recent eBoard that involved 12 highly specialized experts all weighing in on a patient’s cancer.
“There was some banter back and forth as an oncologist shared what he thought was the best route,” Wells says. “Then the radiation expert shared her thoughts. Then the pharmacist jumped in. It was really impressive.”
The process is fairly simple. Hancock physicians put in an order requesting help. Then a team at Hancock Health compiles the necessary information on that patient and the doctor asks specific questions. All info is sent to Mayo Clinic. Mayo schedules a doctor’s appointment with that specialist. They review the case and send back a response. As of early September, Hancock has arranged 13 e-consults, including several oncology cases, three gastrointestinal issues, two for neurology and one for wound care.
This relationship allows patients to get a second opinion without leaving Hancock County. Not only that, but people in the city are now traveling to Hancock Health for expert advice.
“We used to go to our providers in Indianapolis, but now our patients are coming to us instead for that close-to-home, high-quality care and kindness that we are known for at Hancock Health,” Wells says. “We aren’t a big system, but now we have the resources of the Mayo Clinic to feel like all of the education and highly specialized stuff is here. We are a little bit bigger now with the Mayo Clinic behind us.”