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Mayo Clinic Care Network reaches into California

The rapidly expanding Mayo Clinic Care Network has stepped across an invisible dotted line and — for the first time — shaken hands with a California health system.

The Care Network's newest member is Palomar Health, based in California's San Diego County, which competes with nationally rankedhealth organizations such as Scripps and UC-San Diego.

Palomar joins the Mayo Clinic Care Network's collection of self-owned facilities that get access to the latest Mayo protocols, along with expert consultations between Palomar health providers and Mayo experts about California patients with complex ailments.

The goal is providing the highest-level of care, with patients' providers able to get quick answers from Mayo specialists who have extensive experience treating multiple cases of rarely occurring conditions.

Thus, patients in San Diego County who develop relatively unusual medical conditions will be able to keep seeing their primary physician at home and, in most cases, will not have to travel someplace out of state in order to get diagnosed and treated.


But, statistically, some of those patients will need referral — and many, as a result of the collaboration, are likely to choose to travel to Mayo Clinic's destination-medical-center sites in Rochester, Arizona and Florida.

Palomar operates three hospitals, including more than 700 beds between them, and several clinics.According to a Care Network announcement, Palomar is "the largest public health care district in California."

Spokeswoman Bobette Brown said via email that Palomar Health has an average daily patient census of 320 patients, which equates to more than 116,000 people annually.

If only a small fraction of those patients need referral for complex care, Mayo will see a bump in its own patient census;Palomar can boast about patient access to top-level care and Palomar patients will either stay close to home or get referral to some of the top specialists in the country — which Care Network proponents see as a win for everybody involved.

The Mayo Clinic Care Network, first announced in 2011, is a markedly different philosophy from other health systems nationally, many of which have begun consolidating. Instead, says Dr. Russell Heigh, Mayo's Care Network Southwest medical director, "we believe collaboration is key to the future of health care."

It's a different model from Cleveland Clinic, which has built a free-standing, Cleveland-Clinic owned neurology facility in Las Vegas and is nearing completion of an international facility in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The Care Network has now grown to serve patients living in more than 15 states, Puerto Rico and Mexico — and is expected to continue its rapid expansion. It includes health groups in the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, Midwest and, now, the West Coast.

CEO Michael Covert said the announcement shows Palomar has "raised the bar for health care in San Diego." That type of public-image boosting commentary will now also be occurring across the country as Care Network members tell their communities about their collaboration with Mayo.


Health reporter Jeff Hansel writes the Pulse on Health column every Monday. Follow him on Twitter @JeffHansel.

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