HANCOCK COUNTY — Hancock Health has joined a network providing access to expertise from a medical organization that’s been operating for over 150 years and has thousands of physicians.
Leaders are celebrating the new relationship as a way to enhance health care while keeping it local and at no extra cost to patients.
Hancock Health is now a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, part of the Mayo Clinic, a health care provider headquartered in Rochester, Minnesota. The network is made up of health care providers that can connect to Mayo Clinic’s knowledge and expertise.
“The Mayo Clinic Care Network is an elite group of independent health care organizations that work together with the Mayo Clinic to strengthen patient relationships and keep more patient care local,” said Steve Long, president and CEO of Hancock Health, during a presentation at Gateway Hancock Health on Tuesday.
Through its membership, Hancock Health has access to Mayo Clinic tools like a database of clinical information on hundreds of medical conditions along with medical protocols, treatment recommendations and medical references. Hancock Health doctors can contact Mayo Clinic specialists for second opinions on cases. Medical teams from Hancock Health can take part in live video-conferences to virtually review and discuss complex cases with the Mayo Clinic as well.
The Mayo Clinic Care Network, created in 2011, has more than 45 member organizations from across the world. Hendricks Regional Health, which serves Hendricks County, also recently joined the network.
Long said the new partnership will improve care available to residents of east-central Indiana and ensure they don’t have to go far to get it.
“We believe that providing our physicians access to their expert counterparts at Mayo as well as inside access to a Mayo Clinic knowledge base that is 150 years in the making will allow our patients to maximize their potential for a fulfilled and healthy life by experiencing the very best medical care right here close to home, right in our own backyard, right here at Hancock Health,” Long said.
Being in the network comes at no additional cost to patients, Long continued, adding Hancock Health pays for it out of its professional expense budget. Much of what Hancock Health pays other sources for it will now be collaborating on with Mayo Clinic, he also said, allowing for some evening out among those expenses.
Dr. Julia Compton, assistant vice president, oncology service line for Hancock Health, noted the new relationship will allow her to attend oncology tumor boards with the Mayo Clinic virtually.
“I can discuss complex cancer presentations with oncology experts who are running clinical trials, helping shape the way we care for cancer patients not only here in the United States but across the world,” Compton said, adding she can also request further research as it relates to rare cancers. “My need now to send any of my patients, our patients elsewhere becomes incredibly rare.”
Dr. Mark Larson, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, noted Compton sees complex cases.
“She can’t possibly know everything in the literature about every condition,” Larson said. “But now, after today’s kickoff, she has a team of 4,700 physicians that can help her. So if she sees something that’s difficult, complex, never seen before perhaps, she’s got specialists and sub-specialists that she can now connect with formally to deliver opinions, validate care, offer suggestions…”
Long emphasized the relationship is not a merger or acquisition.
“We will remain an independent, community-based organization with a unique ability to mold our care to the specific needs of the residents of Hancock County and east-central Indiana,” Long said.
“What this is is a formal mechanism to share, to collaborate, to work together, to leverage technology…”
The health officials described the vetting procedure for joining the network as detailed. It was based in part on Hancock Health’s publicly reported quality scores, like its A grade from The Leapfrog Group, four-star Medicare rating and being named one of the nation’s safest hospitals by the Lown Institute.
“It’s a very rigorous, due-diligence vetting process and they hit the marks in all regards,” Larson said of Hancock Health.
Mayo Clinic has gotten to know Hancock Health well over the past six months, he said.
“We have truly seen that our values and our culture really align beautifully with Hancock Health,” he said.
The presentation’s speakers also said members of the network not only benefit from the Mayo Clinic, but from one another as well. Larson recalled the cyberattack on Hancock Regional Hospital in 2018 that the health care provider resolved by paying a $55,000 ransom rather than attempt to fight through the encryption of thousands of files. The hospital later discovered that core components of its system had been corrupted, making paying the ransom unavoidable.
“I look forward to our IT leaders learning from Hancock Health about some of the challenges and dilemmas you faced a couple years ago and really successfully navigated,” Larson said. “This is not a unidirectional relationship, this is a very multi-directional relationship.”