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Mayo, Cleveland Clinics look to network with physician practices

In a bid to expand their networks and perhaps lay the foundation for becoming accountable care organizations, two of the nation’s more prominent healthcare systems have announced plans to affiliate with outside physician practices.

The Mayo Clinic, based in Rochester, Minn., and the Cleveland Clinic, based in Cleveland, made separate announcements that they will be seeking practices to pay subscription fees in exchange for the use of resources and the name brand, according to a story in today’s edition of American Medical News. Neither indicated this was being done to plan for an ACO, but the creation of alliances with specialty groups does fit nicely with the model of healthcare being pushed by reform.

"There's a lot of consolidation among healthcare groups as people try to predict what healthcare reform will mean," said David L. Hayes, MD, a cardiologist and medical director of Mayo's affiliated practice network, in the story. "The whole point for us is to grow strong relationships with other healthcare groups, other healthcare systems, that are of a similar mindset in terms of caring for the patient. We can help support them with clinical expertise and help the local practices stay strong."

The affiliations – none of which have been announced yet – will add to two already strong networks. The Mayo Clinic, which also operates campuses in Scottsdale, Ariz. and Jacksonville, Fla., has some 3,700 physicians and scientists on its staff. The Cleveland Clinic counts more than 1,800 physicians and dentists in offices throughout Ohio and in Weston, Fla., Elko, Nev., Toronto and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

"While others quickly consolidate to address healthcare reform and an uncertain reimbursement environment, at Mayo we are focused on further developing our integrated model of practice, education and research, as well as a range of external affiliations and relationships, to give more people seamless access to the knowledge and expertise of Mayo Clinic," said John Noseworthy, MD, president and CEO of the Mayo Clinic, which launched a hospital affiliation program this past May with the Altru Health System in Grand Forks, N.D.

The Cleveland Clinic launched a similar program several years ago, and Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Health System and Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have similar affiliate programs in place.

Officials say the new partnerships aren’t being done to acquire practices – hence the subscription plans – but to strengthen relationships between the organizations and large single-specialty groups, many of which are looking to ally with large healthcare organizations to take advantage of health reform benefits. In fact, neither Mayo nor Cleveland are requiring referral services of any new partners.

"We hope they think of us first, but we don't require that," said Joseph Cacchione, MD, chairman of business operations at the Cleveland Clinic.

What they are doing, experts say, is setting up more avenues of care at a time when hospitalizations are declining and inpatient revenues are stagnant or sinking. According to an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality brief issued last February, while only 16 percent of surgeries were performed on an outpatient basis in 1980, 58 percent of surgeries were done in this manner in 2007.

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