Dr. Colleen Swank, Grand Forks, column: Altru, Mayo consult routinely and extensivelyMy colleagues and I work together as a team to deliver the best possible care to our patients — and when we need more advice, it often is a specialist from Mayo who gets our call.
By: Dr. Colleen Swank,
By Colleen Swank
GRAND FORKS — Although there have been other inaccuracies in news stories, letters and Area Voices comments about Altru Health System over the past few months that have made my blood pressure rise, I feel compelled to write after reading the letter from Carrie Tobkin (“What does Altru’s Mayo affiliation mean?” Page D3, July 8).
To say that Altru is “engaged in a misleading marketing ploy” is hurtful and wrong.
I have been a pediatrician at Altru Health System for almost 12 years. Even before the official affiliation, Altru had a great relationship with Mayo Clinic.
For as long as I have been here, we have had Mayo pediatric cardiologists seeing patients monthly in our pediatric clinic. This keeps my stable pediatric cardiology patients from having to make the seven-hour trek to Rochester, Minn., and lets me refer new patients without them having to leave Grand Forks.
When a baby is born and we have a concern that there is something wrong with his or her heart, we perform an ultrasound and send the image via telephone lines to the Mayo pediatric cardiologist. That specialist then is able to work with the Altru pediatrician or neonatologist to deliver the best possible care to the baby.
We have pediatric patients with cancer who are treated by Mayo physicians. These patients can get some of their care here by pediatricians working with Mayo pediatric oncologists so the patients can stay close to home.
We now have a Mayo pediatric neurologist seeing patients in our clinic two days a month.
My colleagues and I work together as a team to deliver the best possible care to our patients — and when we need more advice, it often is a specialist from Mayo who gets our call.
And since Altru has become part of the Mayo Care Network, we are able to request a more comprehensive consult from the Mayo specialist. Now, instead of only picking up the phone and telling the Mayo physician about the patient, I can send him or her ALL the patient’s records including notes, labs, X-rays, CT scans and so on — and within (typically) three days, I get a typed-up consult with recommendations. The patient gets a copy of the note as well.
All of this is done with no extra cost to the patient.
In my department alone, we have used this service at least 10 times. Some patients have been told that the Mayo physician wouldn’t do anything differently; some have been told that they need to go to Mayo for further work up; some have had additional tests here in Grand Forks or were started on different medications based on the recommendations from the Mayo physician.
This is real. This is not a marketing ploy.
Mayo Clinic would not sully their name by associating with a health system that is not worthy. Before accepting Altru as the first member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, Mayo executives reviewed Altru with a fine-toothed comb.
Mayo Clinic Care Network members are selected based on a rigorous set of clinical excellence, patient care and quality criteria. Mayo’s leaders felt comfortable that they would be proud to have Altru Health System be the first independent organization to carry that designation.
Again, this is not a marketing ploy.
Finally, I think that when people insult “Altru,” they need to remember who they are insulting.
“Altru” is not just one person. There are around 4,000 of us who are employed by Altru. When I read the opinions that Altru doesn’t care about patients, doesn’t help the community, only cares about money or is engaged in a marketing ploy, I am personally insulted.
Those comments don’t describe me, so don’t lump me and my fellow employees in with those comments. (I had bad service from a cashier at Target last week. That does not mean that all Target employees are uncaring or that Target is a bad company.)
There are 4,000 of us. We are your neighbors, members of your church, parents of your children’s friends, spouses of your co-workers.
And — whether our job is to keep the grounds manicured, deliver food, answer the phone when you call, diagnose your illness, dispense your medication, draw your blood, interact with your insurance company or take your X-ray — we all are involved in the care of patients.
We take our jobs seriously. If you have a poor interaction with an Altru employee, by all means complain.
Just please don’t put down the other 3,999 of us.
Dr. Swank is an Altru Health System pediatrician.