Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Health

More big names in health care may target Tampa Bay area

Tempted to fly to New York for a heart procedure at a hospital affiliated with Columbia University Medical Center? You might want to hold off on booking a ticket. The Ivy League institution is now a partner to the cardiac unit at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

And more big names in health care may be setting up shop near here in the future.

As it builds a national network, the Mayo Clinic recently affiliated with a Naples hospital, the first of what it expects will be other expansions in Florida beyond its long-standing satellite in Jacksonville.

And its leaders would be glad to talk to any interested parties in Tampa Bay.

"We'd invite them to give us a call," said Bob Brigham, chief administrative officer of the Mayo Clinic in Florida.

The latest wave of health care alliances often involves fee-based relationships, a different approach than the 2011 merger between Johns Hopkins Medicine of Baltimore and All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. But many of the driving factors are the same. Standalone hospitals and medical practices are seeking security through alliances with larger organizations at a time of sweeping change and consolidation in health care.

"Why would a local hospital want to partner with a Cleveland Clinic or MD Anderson?" asked Cynthia Toth, associate director of the masters in health care administration program at the University of Florida. "It gives the local hospital an infusion of new identity, new expertise and new credibility in their competitive market."

And renowned as they are, she noted, elite medical centers also need new streams of revenue and patients — especially if their core markets are tapped out.

Of course, a patient at a Mayo network hospital shouldn't expect doctors from Rochester to fly down to perform your surgery. But local doctors can reach out to Mayo specialists for consultations on rare or perplexing conditions.

Doctors at Sarasota Memorial, for example, look forward to learning new procedures from Columbia physicians with vast expertise in them. And they hope to give their patients greater access to new technologies in trial stages.

But it's never a given that every partnership will succeed as expected.

"A lot of them don't work," Toth said. "Just like marriages."

Consider Sarasota Memorial's five-year search for a partner in cardiac care. The public hospital wanted an academic affiliation for access to cutting-edge trials and clinical expertise.

A high-volume cardiac center, Sarasota's doctors also felt they had much to bring to the relationship, including a robust patient database that's valuable for research.

Columbia and Duke University emerged as their top contenders. But the courtship began to turn on cultural considerations, said Dr. Rick Yaryura, medical director of Sarasota's cardiology services.

Columbia's team came down from New York in suits and ties with an aggressive pitch. Duke's group wore slacks and favored a slower, distinctly Southern approach.

But Columbia won over the doctors at Sarasota Memorial by listening closely to their wishes, Yaryura said. And it wanted less money. Sarasota Memorial will pay on average $250,000 annually for a three-year affiliation that could be extended to five.

"We didn't want to be changed necessarily, we wanted to be optimized," said Yaryura, whose patients have welcomed the affiliation announced this past spring. "They like the idea that we don't stagnate and sit around, that we are looking for opportunities to better ourselves."

And the Columbia name doesn't hurt, he noted, especially among the many New York retirees in Sarasota's market.

Such brand-name appeal has long been a phenomenon in Florida's health landscape. The Cleveland Clinic has a satellite location in Weston. The Mayo Clinic operates a hospital in Jacksonville.

And Mayo hopes to expand in Florida through a network of hospitals and health practices that pay for access to its expertise and branding.

"Historic relationships were acquisitions and mergers and integration," said Brigham of the Mayo Clinic in Florida. "We think our care network offers an alternative that will be very viable for many organizations that would like to remain independent but need partnership and resources from a larger organization."

Members of the Mayo Clinical Care Network, which recently added the NCH Healthcare System in Naples, are offered online consults with Mayo specialists and business advice, as well as that famous logo.

Brigham declined to disclose the fees to join, adding that quality and culture are reviewed before membership is offered.

"We learn from these hospitals as much as they learn from us," he said.

For now, he said, Mayo doesn't have plans to enter the Tampa Bay market. "(But) if someone's interested," Brigham said, "we encourage them to contact us."

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this article. Letitia Stein can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330.

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