Archived Story

Mayo Clinic says it’s prepared to meet demands

Published 9:13pm Friday, June 21, 2013

ROCHESTER — The Mayo Clinic is facing twin challenges.

The state is now looking for Mayo Clinic to dramatically expand the regional economy with its planned Destination Medical Center, just as doctors and hospitals are being asked to rein in health costs.

“If the costs grow less rapidly, so do the jobs,” Mark Pauly, a professor of health care management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, said of the national dilemma also faced here. “From a policy point of view, that hasn’t been reconciled.”

But Mayo Clinic officials said they’re uniquely prepared to satisfy both demands.

Brad Narr, medical director for the Destination Medical Center, said that by providing high-quality, efficient care while expanding operations in Rochester, Mayo plans to survive and prosper even as cost pressures might force other medical centers to shrink.

“I think there are going to be winners and there are going to be people that are going to be left in the dust,” Narr said. “And it’s going to hinge on what we’re actually doing as a medical system that improves people’s lives and provides value.”

There are still many unanswered questions about Destination Medical Center. Mayo Clinic officials haven’t said exactly how they’ll invest the $3.5 billion they’ve committed to spend over 20 years. It’s also not clear what sort of investment will come from other private parties who are expected to spend up to $2.1 billion. The Legislature in May approved $585 million in taxpayer support.

All told, supporters predict, the project will create about 30,000 jobs but it’s not clear when.

Mayo’s plan for growth is focused on drawing patients from outside Minnesota, Narr said.

The clinic wants to be a destination for patients seeking second opinions and dealing with “curveballs” that have stumped hometown medical centers, he said. The clinic will also maintain expertise in treating complex medical conditions for which patients need care that’s well-coordinated among different medical specialties.

Over the years, Mayo has made big investments in reporting systems to gauge health care quality and efficiency, Narr said, and physicians believe the data will help prove their value to patients. With that proof, Mayo expects to distinguish itself from other systems and thereby survive whatever consolidation comes to the industry.

The focus on value is where the U.S. health system needs to go, said Dr. David Goodman, a health policy expert at Dartmouth Medical School.

If the Destination Medical Center means Mayo gets bigger so it can provide high-quality, efficient treatment to more patients, that could be good for Rochester and the nation, Goodman said. But the focus needs to remain on value, he said, not jobs.

“Thirty-thousand jobs sounds great to the local area,” Goodman said. “But it represents a tremendous amount of money that could be coming out of other health care systems, if they aren’t providing that care, or from employers and the government.”

“Rochester’s gain might be the nation’s loss if there isn’t substantially greater value in the services they’re providing,” he said.