Mayo Clinic Health System made substantial changes in 2013 toward better care and lower costs. These included more emphasis on primary care teams and launching Patient Online Services, according to MCHS officials.

More improvements are under way in 2014, they said Monday night in a public discussion of the 2013 annual report.

Internally, improvements started with standardization of procedures followed by integration of best practices after MCHS acquired the Red Wing medical center in July 2012, Dr. Tom Witt said.

The president and CEO of the MCHS Cannon Falls, Lake City and Red Wing said now the three medical centers and their affiliated clinics work more seamlessly together and with the Mayo Clinic “hub” in Rochester.

Externally, patients are experiencing diagnosis, treatment and follow-up in a new way. They don’t necessarily see a doctor - or need to - during every visit.

This is change from the traditional model of “one patient, one physician, till death do us part,” Witt acknowledged. “We don’t have enough primary care physicians to able to deliver that care, especially with our aging population.”

The typical primary care team consists of several physicians, a physician assistant, registered nurse, two licensed nurses and a certified medical assistant. When someone calls for an appointment, the team’s patient access liaison asks detailed, standardized questions and then schedules time with the appropriate provider based on the individual’s symptoms.

“Everyone (is) trying to operate to the full extent of their license, so we have the right people doing the right tasks,” Witt said. This will save money and produce efficiencies all while fulfilling a theme he revisited several times in the evening: The right care at the right time in the right place.

Electronic services

In that same vein, MCHS launched Patient Online Services in 2013. Patients can log into an account for lab results, clinical notes and medication lists. No more waiting until the end of the day when a provider squeezes in a plethora of calls to numerous patients.

Steve Gudgell, chief administrative officer, said a major addition to electronic access occurred early Saturday morning: providers now can log in to see a patient’s test results, charts, medical history and provider notes from any clinic in the system.

More than 150 computer programmers had to get 78 electronic systems to communicate for the transition, he said. It paid off Monday, when a physician ended up spending parts of the day in Cannon Falls, Lake City and Red Wing but had instant access and instant referral.

“Before that we were faxing information, having patients carry CDs of X-rays,” Gudgell said.

Witt and Gudgell said the next major change begins Aug. 4 with breaking ground for the new Cannon Falls medical center along Highway 52. A state-of-the-art facility of nearly 90,000 square feet will replace 35,000 square feet that includes three houses.

This will support better care delivery across the region, they said.