Here locally, the news is much more positive: WellStar Health System, based in neighboring Cobb County, announced Feb. 6 it will become the largest member of the Mayo Clinic HealthCare Network in the Southeast and the only member of that network in metro Atlanta.
The Mayo Clinic, of course, has been “the gold standard” in health care and a household name in this country for nearly a century. Based in Rochester, Minn., it is the first and largest integrated not-for-profit medical group practice in the world, boasting more than 3,800 physicians and scientists and 50,900 other staff.
And it does more than just treat patients — spending more than $500 million a year on research, for example.
The new collaboration with WellStar will permit local WellStar specialists to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on the diagnosis and treatment plans for complex cancer cases, and has been in the making for 18 months, according to WellStar president and CEO Reynold Jennings.
WellStar doctors will be able to submit specific questions to Mayo’s Care Network (along with supporting notes, image scans, X-rays and medical records) and receive a formal response within two days, Jennings said. Not only does the arrangement offer quick access to world-class medical experts, it does so without requiring the ill person to be transported to one of its clinics around the country (the closest one from here is in Jacksonville, Fla.) — a considerable savings in terms of cost, hassle and, often the most crucial factor in such cases, time. WellStar has long been referring patients to Mayo’s clinics, but this will make for a much more convenient arrangement.
WellStar officials are quick to clarify that the new setup is not a merger of the two health care giants.
“We will remain independent,” said executive VP and chief administrative medical officer Robert Jansen of WellStar. “This is a collaboration.”
And it is a collaboration that should work to the advantage of local patients, their families and their doctors.