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Mayo Clinic Looks to Affiliations to Expand Brand

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, June 7, 2011

Known internally as the affiliated practice network, the new strategy is to extend the Mayo Clinic's geographic reach without building costly new facilities, spending money to acquire hospitals or consolidating with another health system.

Mayo signed its first agreement in mid-May with Altru Health System in Grand Forks, N.D. Terms are still being worked out, but it is expected that Altru will make some change in its name to reflect the Mayo affiliation. Altru will gain access to Mayo Clinic physicians, as well as to Mayo's disease management protocols, clinical trials, and clinical care guidelines. Mayo will not hold an ownership position in Altru Health; the system will remain community owned and will maintain its local management control.

Prior to joining the affiliated practice network Altru and Mayo collaborated on a number of projects, including pediatric and cancer services.

There will be a vetting process for participation in the affiliated practice network. "We're looking for places that have a similar culture and share the Mayo philosophy for patient care," explains Rupp.

Geography will also play a role to allow Mayo physicians to easily travel to treat patient at an affiliate or to enable patients to travel to a nearby Mayo Clinic for medical care. Grand Forks, the home of Altru Health, is about 350 miles from Mayo's Rochester facilities.

Mayo is playing it close to the vest in terms of discussing any financial arrangements with affiliates. Rupp says simply "we have to cover our costs but this is new so we don't know what the numbers will be."

Rupp says the affiliation program does not involve any health plans "at this time."

Like the Mayo Clinic, other hospitals and health systems are looking at different models of affiliations. In February, Duke University Health System Inc. and LifePoint Hospitals announced a partnership to create "flexible affiliation options" that could range from joint ventures to ownership of community hospitals in North Carolina.

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