Mayo en route to virtual patients

| July 10, 2008
   7/9/2008 10:25:02 AM

By Jeff Hansel
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN 

Mayo Clinic wants people to know that the organization’s virtual door — like a scene from the movie Monsters Inc. — can be found anyplace in the world.

"We’ve kicked around the term ‘Mayo Clinic anywhere,’" said Jeff Korsmo, Rochester chief administrative officer.

Officials plan to offer new and existing Mayo services in ways that won’t require visits to Rochester, helping counter the soaring price of fuel.

Virtual technology eventually will allow Mayo to offer remote products such as advice, information and direct care. The effort could build the clinic’s patient numbers in Rochester, even though the goal is to serve patients remotely.

Patient visits have climbed 1.6 percent this year, but they haven’t grown as much as expected, Mayo officials said. Missing the expected patient levels is something that happens every two or three years, Korsmo said.

"Being a destination medical center can be challenging in difficult economic times, and the cost of travel can affect people’s choices to travel for health care," Chief Executive Officer Glenn Forbes wrote to employees in a June newsletter.

Gasoline has soared to nearly $4 a gallon, doubling in less than four years.

"It obviously increases the cost of anything that relates to fuel. So it has had an impact," Korsmo said. "We will make adjustments in the short term, but we always try to stay focused on the long term — and this is probably a long-term reality. We don’t expect gas prices to plummet."

Plans to remedy the problem remain in their infancy, Korsmo said. But he expects patient numbers to grow remarkably as plans take shape.

Already, regional Mayo Health System doctors use technology to remotely link patients to specialists, Korsmo said, eliminating trips to Rochester. In the future, Mayo will be able to serve new and existing patients virtually.

"In that model, we would actually touch many more people — many times more people — than we do today," Korsmo said.

The percentage of patients served who visit the city in person could decrease. But because the overall numbers will be larger, planners expect Mayo’s census in Rochester to increase.

Mayo has more than 30,000 employees in Rochester, and many commute to the city from outlying towns. To counter high gas prices for them, Mayo officials will consider options such as hybrid bus service and light rail, Korsmo said.

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Category: General Healthcare News

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