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Mayo touts array of changes

FAIRMONT — Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont has undergone numerous enhancements over the past 18 months.

These include adding several new providers, new services, electronic record-keeping common to all Mayo sites, increased security, opening Urgent Care and community initiatives.

There is also one change that impacts every patient who schedules an appointment. For the last five months, patients calling for appointments likely talked to a scheduler based in Fairmont, a reversal of a years-long practice of running appointment scheduling through a call center in Mankato.

“It was a difficult job for a call center person to know all of the providers and services and nuances for an entire region, but that’s changed now,” said Amy Long, administrator at Mayo-Fairmont. “Since October 2018, our appointments schedulers were brought back to the clinic. We have a whole new message or triage line so when you press 1 to schedule an appointment, it will come to the Fairmont clinic.”

Six primary care team schedulers are embedded in the clinic to handle appointments, although overloaded or backed-up calls might be routed through the Mankato call center.

“We haven’t been real public about this before, but it’s been going real well,” said Dr. Marie Morris, medical director at Mayo-Fairmont. “It’s working so much better, from the provider side and from the patient side. The schedulers are back in Fairmont, and that’s a big thing. People did not want to talk to somebody elsewhere.”

Those schedulers will be kept busy with a slate of new providers on staff.

“Recruitment has been, by far, one of the stronger successes we’ve had since 2017,” said Long, who just began her third year as administrator.

Five new providers were added in 2017: Julie Rolstad, nurse practitioner, internal medicine; Tracy Mitchell, nurse practitioner, family medicine; Dr. Jonathan Buchholz, OBGYN; Dr. Mark Leo, urology, one day per week from Mankato; and Dr. Andrew Brevik, internal medicine/hospitalist.

In 2018, Dr. Timothy Sheneman, internal medicine, and Cathleen LaLonde, psychologist, became full-time providers, while Dr. Kaveh Karimnejad, an ear, nose and throat specialist, comes to the clinic from Mankato every other week. A general surgeon and orthopedic specialist also will join the Fairmont medical staff within the next few weeks.

“Some of these were replacement positions, but they had been open for quite some time because of recruitment challenges,” Long said. “Being a community hospital, we have a unique challenge in that we are recruiting to find physicians that want to practice and live in a smaller community, who are interested in rural health care. That’s an entirely different subset of the general physician population. It’s not impossible to find them, but it is a different way of recruiting them.”

Because of the demand for physicians and specialists, Mayo-Fairmont promotes the appeal of Mayo resources and the quality of life in the area.

“Sometimes that Mayo draw gets them to take that first look, and then they’ll come and see what this community is like,” Morris said.

Even one provider can impact the medical campus, Long said. The addition of Buchholz to the OBGYN team resulted in a 17 percent increase in births and deliveries in 2018.

In addition to the new providers, Mayo-Fairmont supplemented its patient services by adding Urgent Care at the clinic in November, expanding same-day acute care needs with the ability to coordinate with on-site lab and radiology departments. It also invested more than $1 million in equipment, offering three-dimensional mammograms and an upgraded CT machine with lower radiation, faster imaging and the capacity to hold 660 pounds.

Employees at all Mayo sites spent many hours training on Epic, the company’s new $1.3 billion electronic medical records system, when implementing the network began in 2017.

“The health system sites were one of the first to go live, but now all Mayo sites are on the same medical records,” Long said. “What that means from a patient aspect is if you are a patient in Fairmont, and you’re a snowbird and go to Arizona or Florida, it’s the same medical record. We’re all on one system. Providers aren’t having to log into different systems to track different records.”

Morris pointed out the advantages of electronic consulting that accompanied the move to Epic.

“We get results immediately, scans, images, and they go to Rochester,” she said. “It’s as if they were seeing the patient. They send us back an assessment of the (treatment) plan, and the information they give us is amazing. The connection is incredible, what it offers us to be able to do. It’s definitely a step up.”

Morris also spotlighted quality achievement for the hospital’s efforts in eliminating Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, a bacteria sometimes acquired in hospitals that can cause intestinal infections, diarrhea and even death.

“We were, at one point in time, being identified as having a higher risk of C. diff,” she said. “Through work that’s been done across the system, from the housekeeping in the rooms to nursing to where we stock supplies, we have cut C. diff way down.”

“Zero infections in the last three quarters, and so far, so good in 2019,” Long said.

“That’s impressive, and it’s just one more step on how we can continue to improve,” Morris said.

Security upgrades on the Fairmont campus include a camera system in the hospital’s Family Birth Center, which is locked for security and safety. In addition, entry doors at the hospital and clinic lock at 8 p.m. so visitors must check in at the emergency room.

Mayo-Fairmont’s community outreach continues through the “Mayo Mile,” a walking program at Five Lakes Centre.

“Every time you go there, you see walkers, and they’re very consistent,” Morris said.

“There are maps so people know how far they’ve walked, but there’s also the social aspect for those who like to walk and talk. Whatever we can do to encourage that healthy behavior,” Long said.

Mayo-Fairmont partnered with community health services in Martin and Faribault counties to offer breastfeeding support services through the Fairmont Area Baby Cafe. It began last year on the Mayo campus but moved to the ECFE wing of Fairmont Elementary School as a convenience for participants.

“We also offered our first health care career observation program with Fairmont High School,” Long said. “We started in 2018 and will continue in 2019.”

Mayo’s growth and improvements will continue next month with a new outreach program to reduce the need for open surgeries.

“It’s within the department of radiology, and they will use imaging to assist a procedure whether it’s a vascular procedure like treating an aneurysm or treating a blockage or an area that’s bleeding,” Morris said. “They will use radiology to be able to view exactly the placement for a drain or to do a biopsy so they’re not doing an open surgical procedure. They’ll have a live picture of what they’re doing. They can see the needle go right into a spot. It’s really high tech. It’s amazing.”

Because the process requires an interventional radiology suite, procedures will be done in Mankato, but consultations will take place in Fairmont.

Also scheduled for 2019 are a new service offering diagnosis and treatment of dry eye at the eye clinic, and the July opening of the Lutz Cancer Center in the former nursing home.

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