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Health--it's what we all have in common: whether we're trying to maintain our health through good habits or improve our failing health. "Bridges to Health" is 90.5 WESA's health care reporting initiative examining everything from unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act to transparency in health care costs; from a lack of access to quality care for minority members of our society to confronting the opioid crisis in our region. It's about our individual health and the well-being of our community.Health care coverage on 90.5 WESA is made possible in part by a grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

St. Clair Hospital Brings A Virtual Mayo Clinic To Its Patients

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St. Clair Hospital
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The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. is known for employing doctors with highly refined subspecialties, and now St. Clair Hospital doctors can tap into that expertise.

An agreement between the two hospitals, finalized this week, will allow St. Clair doctors to access eTumor Boards – a virtual version of tumor board reviews, in which multiple doctors brainstorm ways to treat an individual patient.

“There are certainly cancers that affect millions of people in the United States but there are also cancers like sarcoma, which might be more on the order of a couple thousand a year,” said Mayo Clinic Medical Director of Provider Relations Ryan Uitti.

The eTumor Boards will allow St. Clair doctors to solicit expertise from the Mayo Clinic and doctors at the more than 40 other hospitals in the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

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Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA
Workers put up signs announcing St. Clair Hospital's partnership with the Mayo Clinic.

“There isn’t one institution that would have the corner on all the information,” Uitti said. “At Mayo, we are also seeing this care network as a collective.”

St. Clair Hospital Chief Medical Officer Alan Yeasted said St. Clair already holds a weekly tumor board, where doctors discuss treating patients with all types of cancers, but the collaboration with the Mayo Clinic will allow them to drill down deeper.

“So we now will be able to participate with the physicians at the Mayo Clinic itself on how to best treat these patients,” Yeasted said.

Through the Mayo Clinic Care Network, St. Clair doctors will also have access to electronic consultations.

“You could have a patient that has some type of a movement disorder, possibly Parkinson's disease or some other disorder, we could actually video tape the patient … send that video tape with their records to the Mayo Clinic specialist who can look at how the patient is moving and help us make that diagnoses and recommend the appropriate treatment,” Yeasted said.

To join network, St. Clair will pay a subscription fee. And administrators said patients will not be billed for e-consultations or for having their cases discussed during one of the eTumor Boards.

The collaboration also gives St. Clair access to a database of information vetted by the Mayo Clinic on treatments and operational procedures. Uitti said building the database was a long process that began with finding the right specialist to write on a subject, having the work vetted by peers and then reviewed to make sure it is understandable by anyone in the hospital that might need to quickly digest it.

“If they can’t utilize it, it’s a failure,” Uitti said. “This is really meant to take care of a patient today, or this evening, when there aren’t other people to call immediately.”

The database also includes help for administrators on everything from dress code policies and patient scheduling, to tamping down readmission rates.

St. Clair will train its staff on using the new network this week. St. Clair Chief Operating Officer Michael Flanagan said the deal was a year in the making. The hospital was drawn to the network in part because it had interactions with other members of the network that were “extremely pleased” with the collaboration. Flanagan said they also already had relationships with the Mayo Clinic for group purchasing agreements and a clinical reference lab.

Health care coverage on 90.5 WESA is made possible in part by a grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.