Beyond the blue signs; we’re changing local health care

August 17, 2015


by Tom Witt, M.D., CEO, Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls, Lake City, Red Wing

In the initial months and even first year following Mayo Clinic Health System’s acquisition of Fairview Red Wing, we would occasionally be asked by patients and community members: “What’s different besides the new signs?” 

Although it may not have been immediately apparent, the transition of Red Wing’s clinic and hospital to Mayo Clinic Health System three years ago this past July marked the beginning of tremendous change in local health care. I believe it’s improved health care for our patients and communities.

In Red Wing, Cannon Falls, Lake City and throughout Mayo Clinic, we’re working to bring more value by integrating, standardizing, and partnering with patients and our communities to ensure the right care, at the right time, in the right setting. We have to because growing health care costs are not sustainable for anyone —including individuals, employers and our government. 

Ensuring the right care, at the right time and in the right setting means two things: 1) Shifting the focus more on keeping our patients and communities healthy and 2) Providing the appropriate care by the appropriate team of providers with the appropriate resources when illness does occur. 

In the past, our role as health care providers has been to treat patients when they were sick and medically manage their chronic conditions like diabetes. Now, we’re moving more towards helping patients stay healthy by teaching them and connecting them with community resources to make better food choices, exercise more and kick harmful habits such as smoking. This will help prevent chronic conditions including diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

We also know that the majority of our patients and area residents have health care needs that can be appropriately met in their community. Most of the time, a local health care team, including a nurse, nurse practitioner/physician assistant and doctor in the primary care setting can take care of those needs. When patients need specialized care, we can meet those needs in the community most of the time, too. In the past three years, we have worked very hard to recruit more primary care and specialty providers to Red Wing so our patients don’t need to travel to Rochester. Our specialists all have the ability to easily connect with specialists in Rochester as needed. I tell patients that we want to make sure that Rochester is available for the 10% of the population with a complicated medical problem who really need that sub-specialty level of care that only an academic medical center and its resources can provide.

In Red Wing, we’ve added Mayo Clinic trained experts in cardiology, dermatology, neurology, rheumatology, urology and nephrology. We also have staff specialists in ENT, gastroenterology, OB/GYN, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, pediatrics, podiatry, and general surgery. Our OB/GYN and general surgery departments are fully staffed with highly trained physicians after experiencing significant turnover in the recent past. 

We’ve also made some changes in the way we provide hospital care locally so we can keep our patients close to home during those medical events. Our hospital in Red Wing is now staffed by full-time hospitalists. A hospitalist is a physician who focuses solely on taking care of hospitalized patients and coordinates their care while they’re in the hospital. We have a four-bed intensive care unit (ICU) in Red Wing, too. This fall, we’ll enhance that service with the addition of e-ICU – or electronic intensive care unit – which will allow experts in Rochester to help monitor ICU patients in Red Wing via cutting edge technology. The hospital expertise and technology benefit patients from surrounding communities like Cannon Falls and Lake City too. Many patients can get the appropriate level of hospital care without needing to travel to Rochester.

There have been many other changes in the past three years too. Red Wing has transitioned to Mayo Clinic Health System’s electronic health record, connecting the local teams with the rest of the system. In the next couple of years, all of Mayo Clinic will change to a single electronic health record. Other technologies, like telemedicine — where patients can have a visit with a sub-specialist in Rochester using advanced videoconferencing — have helped us bring more Mayo knowledge locally.

I could go on with more examples, but suffice it to say that in the past three years, we’ve moved beyond the blue signs; we’re changing local health care. I’m very optimistic this will lead to a better overall experience and better health – for all of us. 

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