/ Modified may 22, 2015 8:19 p.m.

METRO WEEK: Local Health-Care Systems Changing

Many Tucson-area hospitals partnering with other health care organizations

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In the past year, at least three Tucson-area hospitals have formed partnerships with other health care organizations in an effort to stay financially viable or to improve care.

Tucson Medical Center began offering the services of Mayo Clinic specialists May 1 to give second opinions or to help patients and doctors better understand complex health care cases.

Banner Health purchased University of Arizona's medical center this year in a move University officials say will help ensure "the long-term sustainability of the university’s academic medical programs."

Carondelet Health Network operates St. Mary's and St. Joseph's hospitals in Tucson, and is making plans to sell a majority partnership to Texas-based Tenet Healthcare. This partnership is intended to help bring the Catholic hospitals in Tucson out of financial trouble.

Mayo Clinic and TMC
The Mayo Clinic collaboration with Tucson Medical Center is purely medical. It is meant to improve care, said Dr. Rick Anderson, chief medical officer at TMC.

If a doctor needs a quick second opinion, he or she will do what Anderson called an e-consult. TMC sends the patient's health care data, including X-rays, pathology results and doctor's notes, to a Mayo Clinic specialist, then the doctors consult on the case within 48 hours.

It saves patients a drive to Mayo Clinic's Arizona location in Scottsdale.

"In 48 hours now that physician here in Tucson may have the answers he or she needs to go ahead and continue to care for the patient," Anderson said.

TMC is paying an administrative fee to Mayo Clinic but the patients do not pay extra for the second opinion, he said.

The Tucson hospital also can now use the Mayo Clinic as a peer expert in the business of health care, Anderson said.

"They can help us work on infections, help us work on how we put patients through the emergency department," he said. "They can be our consulting firm."

TMC is relying on the Mayo Clinic's renowned reputation for expertise, Anderson said. The arrangement brings better care to Tucson than if TMC tried to hire more doctors.

"The Mayo Clinic has the ability to recruit the best of the best. I believe as a physician that Mayo Clinic is one of the best, if not the best hospital in the country," he said. "They see things that no one else sees, or we see very rarely. For TMC to have that ability to bring those physicians to Tucson, it would be very difficult."

Partnership trends
"The trend across the country is mergers and partnerships," Anderson said. TMC is locally-owned and not merging with Mayo Clinic. It plans to continue relationships with other area hospitals, such as Banner University Medical Center, he said.

A new hospital is opening in Green Valley likely in the coming weeks. Like TMC, will not be affiliated with another health care company.

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