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story.lead_photo.caption Janelle Jessen/Herald-Leader Dr. David Hayes, medical director for Mayo Clinic Care Network; Dr. Ranga Balasekaran, gastroenterologist for Northwest Gastroenterology in Springdale; and Dr. Scott Musick, family practitioner at Northwest Medical Plaza at Sugar Creek in Bentonville, participated in a panel discussion during a seminar celebrating the partnership between Northwest Health and Mayo Clinic.

SPRINGDALE -- Mayo Clinic and Northwest Health -- which has five hospitals in Northwest Arkansas, including Siloam Springs Regional Hospital -- celebrated the success of their partnership during a luncheon in Springdale on Monday.

The event featured a screening of the Ken Burns' documentary "The Mayo Clinic: Faith -- Hope -- Science," and a panel discussion between Mayo Clinic and Northwest Health doctors.

Northwest Health announced its partnership with Mayo Clinic Care Network in April, according to Dr. James Tanner, chief medical officer for Northwest Health. The partnership connects Northwest Arkansas patients to specialists at the country's highest rated hospital system at no extra cost.

"For Northwest Health, it's been an extremely valuable resource," Tanner said. "We're just beginners. We've been in the network for six months and so we're learning, but we want to make this resource available to our community. I want to emphasize this is an investment the hospital makes. When patients come in and get these second opinions, that is at no cost to the patient, they are not charged. It's part of our agreement with the Mayo Clinic that we can offer that service to the patients at no cost. That's quite an incredible resource for this community."

The Mayo Clinic Care Network began seven years ago and has 44 partners, including seven international partners, that share information, according to Dr. David Hayes, medical director for Mayo Clinic Care Network.

Northwest Health went through an extensive process to become part of the care network. There are many tools and services that come with the affiliation, including e-consults for second opinions, acute consultations over the phone, patient education material that is only internally available to members and health care consulting for health systems looking to expand or provide new programs, Hayes said.

Examples of other services that accompany the affiliation include continuing education for physicians and nurses, and electronic tumor boards that allow local physicians to present complex cases live by video to a multidisciplinary team.

"We have a resource available on every computer in our network, it's called 'Ask Mayo Experts,' and it probably has well over 1,000 disease states that any physician, any nurse, any dietitian, any staff can go in and ask Mayo experts (about)," Tanner said.

More than 20 patients have already benefited from the Mayo Clinic Care Network's e-consults, according to Beth Wright, vice president of marketing and business development for Northwest Health.

Dr. Ranga Balasekaran, a gastroenterologist at Northwest Gastroenterology in Springdale, has been the highest user of second opinion e-Consults in the Northwest Health, Tanner said.

Balasekaran said he specializes in treating diseases of the digestive tract and liver, but that even after six years of training after medical school, it's still not possible to know everything about everything, even in a specialized area, he said.

"When I have a complex case where I may see three of those a year, we have people at Mayo who see 100 (of those) a year," he said. "That experience is valuable for me to lean on."

Balasekaran gave an example of a recent complex case where he consulted with the Mayo Clinic to make sure experts at the institution agreed with his care plan.

"That is very valuable for a local specialist to have that level of expertise available to you as a backup as validation and confirmation of your treatment plan," he said.

Dr. Scott Musick, a family practitioner at Northwest Medical Plaza at Sugar Creek in Bentonville, said he also uses the Mayo Clinic Care Network for some of the more complicated cases facing his patients.

Many of Musick's patients have seen all the specialists available locally and haven't figured out a diagnosis or treatment, so they turn to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion. In the past, that meant a trip to Minnesota or Arizona, but now e-Consults allow patients to get a second opinion without traveling, he said. In some cases, the answer may be the patient needs to visit the Mayo Clinic in person, but in other cases they can be treated locally.

"That's very helpful for my patients and the decreased travel time I think is immeasurable," he said.

U.S. News & World Report ranked the Mayo Clinic, based in Minnesota, as the No. 1 hospital in the country for 2017 to 2018 based on its performance in a host of health areas; including diabetes treatment, geriatrics and neurosurgery.

"Access to exceptional health care is available every single day in Northwest Arkansas," said Denton Park, Northwest Health CEO. "Not only do we have exceptional physicians in our network, these guys are amazing, they also know exactly when to call out for those very special circumstances that require just a little bit of extra attention. What a blessing to be affiliated with the Mayo Clinic and what a blessing to be affiliated with such wonderful physicians."

General News on 10/31/2018

Print Headline: Mayo Clinic, Northwest Health celebrate partnership

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