Mayo Clinic accused of luring patients away from competitors

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The CEO of St. Peter's River Edge Hospital in Minnesota is calling on the Attorney General to investigate Mayo Clinic, accusing the health system giant of steering away patients from local community hospitals and becoming a dangerous monopoly, the St. Peter Herald reported.

Mayo Clinic Health Systems-St. Peter and River's Edge share a building, but the city-owned hospital operates independently. River's Edge CEO Colleen Spike alleged Mayo Clinic deliberately misinformed patients about its competitors' services and redirected them to Mayo.

Spike told the River's Edge Hospital commission last week she received letters from patients, claiming they were told that River's Edge was full or didn't perform certain services (e.g., colonoscopies, mammograms, echocardiograms)--all false, she said.

"The circumstances we're seeing here are too similar to be happenstance," Spike said, suggesting a pattern of "deceptive trade practices" on Mayo's part that have contributed to a drop in procedures and admissions, as well as a $1.6 million net loss as of last month.

"Yes, it hurts us financially, but the real victims are the ones you've heard about. I need you to know we're not sitting by silently anymore," Spike said.

Mayo Clinic's Medical Staff President and staff member at MCHS-St. Peter Elizabeth Osborne said, "At no point, have any of the administration come to the staff and told us to steer people to certain swing beds." Osborne added that 75 percent of all admissions to the hospital and clinic come from Mayo Clinic Health System providers.

The letter, also signed by two former Mayo-employed physicians, urged the Attorney General's office to review not only MCHS-St. Peter, but also Mayo Clinic Health System, and whether they negatively affect St. Peter, Madelia, Springfield and Fairmont communities.

Mayo Clinic Health System includes 17 hospitals and healthcare facilities in 70 communities in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

On Tuesday, the commission approved a motion to form a discussion group of hospital staff and commission members, the St. Peter Herald noted.

The allegations against Mayo aren't unlike other concerns with big hospital powerhouses. With pressures on community hospitals facing reimbursement cuts and well-to-do health systems seeking opportunities to expand and align services, the public--and the Federal Trade Commission--has been increasingly skeptical of what it means to collaborate and what it means to consolidate.

Cleveland Clinic CEO Delos "Toby" Cosgrove told The Wall Street Journal that the nonprofit health system plans to expand its reach even more. It already has eight hospitals in Ohio, facilities in Florida, Las Vegas and Toronto, and most recently, Abu Dhabi. Cosgrove said it is "absolutely" looking at possible mergers with other hospital systems.

"We're going to not drive the cost in a particular community ... What we're talking about is consolidation on a much bigger scale, across the country," Cosgrove said.

When asked about concentration of the Clinic's presence in Cleveland, Cosgrove said that has helped the health system to leverage negotiation power over health insurers and consolidate cardiac surgery, pediatrics, rehab, psychiatric care and obstetrics that "have higher quality and lower cost, more efficiency."

Cleveland Clinic doesn't have plans to form its own health insurance plan but is considering joining another one. Although the Cleveland Clinic was noticeably absent from the Pioneer ACO cohort, the health system does plan on becoming an ACO, Cosgrove said.

For more information:
- see the St. Peter Herald article
- read the WSJ article

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