New model encourages doctors to keep patients healthy

Published 12:06 pm Monday, March 17, 2014

Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin is in the early stages of rolling out a new care model.

Called the Mayo Model of Community Care, it addresses a projected growing shortage of physicians combined with an increase in health care needs.

Tammy Kritzer, operations administrator for Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, said in two to three years, all Mayo community medical centers will have implemented the care model.

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“We want to provide outstanding care to the residents of our communities, but we want to do it in a way that bends the cost curve,” Kritzer said. “We need to figure out a way to deliver care in a manner that is less expensive than it is today, and we believe the way to do that is to embrace care team levels.”

Under the model, a physician will oversee a team of caregivers such as nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, dietitians and other health care workers. Instead of always meeting with a physician, a patient may meet with any of the other health care workers, sometimes more than one depending on the need.

The idea is that a care team would know patients better and there would be consistent care because more than one person understands the patient’s issues.

“It’s all around the patient experience,” Kritzer said. “We know that team-based care will be part of our future.”

The hospitals have worked on implementing the changes and a couple of pilot care teams have already begun in Austin. The hospital hopes to learn from these teams and in the next two to three years begin care teams in all departments in both locations, she said.

“It’s not going to be like a light switch though,” she said.

So what should patients do to get ready for the changes?

• First, Kritzer encouraged people to establish a relationship with a primary provider.

She said some people go to urgent care or the emergency room every time they need care, instead of establishing a relationship with a primary provider and going to that doctor.

“When people have a relationship with their provider, they tend to have a better outcome,” she said.

The doctor gets to know the patient better, and the patient trusts the doctor’s advice more.

• Once patients develop a relationship with a primary provider and the primary care teams are implemented, there will be a group of two or three people they will most often interact with.

“Physicians are in charge but may not always see the patient,” she said.

For example, Kritzer said, an 80-year-old patient who takes 20 medications and has six chronic health care conditions will be approached much differently than a 12-year-old with an earache.

Depending on the needs for the day, the patients would see different members of the team. The 80-year-old might see a pharmacist, while the 12-year-old might see a nurse practitioner.

• To improve communication between patients and health care providers, Mayo Clinic Health System rolled out a new place online where patients can sign in and perform tasks such as making appointments and seeing records and results.

Patients can also communicate with their providers and care team through the website and be reminded of preventative measures they should take.

To log in, patients use their Mayo Clinic number.

“It should be a way where we can empower patients and increase their access to health care,” Kritzer said.

The website can be found at The patient online portal is under “Patient Online Services.”