Magazine October 2018

Unity Health & the Mayo Clinic Continuing the ‘Patient-First’ Approach

by Dustin Jayroe | Photos Courtesy of Unity Health

Two years ago, Unity Health made one of the biggest decisions in their history by becoming the first medical organization in the state of Arkansas to team up with the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

The move gave Unity Health access to Mayo Clinic networks, knowledge and expertise to better serve their patients.

The Mayo Clinic offers a healthcare network devoted to collaborative sharing across state and country lines, so that physicians may provide the best care possible for every patient that walks through their doors, without having to travel miles and miles for a second opinion.

According to LaDonna Johnston, vice president of patient services at Unity Health, the past two years as a part of the Mayo Clinic network have been incredibly beneficial in just about every way imaginable.

“It allows our patients here in this region to have access to national experts in whatever field… the peace of mind that gives you to have a second opinion, and you get to stay right here at home,” Johnston says. “Our focus in this organization is always around our patients, so that has been a great opportunity to give to our community at no cost to our patients.”

The partnership with Mayo Clinic goes beyond just the access to information. According to Johnston, all the Unity Health staff have access to a tool called “Ask Mayo Expert,” which may be utilized by a nurse with a question about a patient or a housekeeper looking up information regarding a personal health issue. Mayo also offers consulting hours, on-site personnel for leadership training and leadership training at their headquarters. The number of ways Unity Health can utilize Mayo to better educate their associates is endless.

The team at Unity Health have also brought in guest speakers from the Mayo Clinic organization to speak at community events. At Unity Health, everything always comes back to and revolves around their patients and their community.

Incoming president and CEO of Unity Health, Steven Webb, knows how vital this partnership is.

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“It really is how can we partner together to provide the expertise, the resources or specific questions about patient care that the local physician can implement to deliver care right here,” Webb says. “It is access to the expertise, through a collaboration.”

Webb took over as President and CEO of Unity Health last month, after Ray Montgomery’s retirement following 30 years of service to the hospital. Webb previously served as vice president of patient services at the North Little Rock Baptist Health facility.

“I am really excited to come into a hospital that is committed to quality. We’ve got great people here that care about our patients, they care about our mission,” Webb says. “For me, this has been a great transition, because the people here have made it easy. It is very clear and evident to me in my first two months that there is a great team that really cares about our patients, and really cares about the work that they do here.”

This commitment to quality goes beyond just words and mission statements at Unity Health. Unity Health is the only medical facility in Arkansas to win the Arkansas Governor’s Quality Award twice, and they are always looking for ways to improve, and that goes beyond just partnering with the Mayo Clinic. Unity Health also offers a graduate medical program that is the second largest in Arkansas. According to Johnston, the inclusion of this graduate program is another way to ensure their patients are getting a comprehensive evaluation, and that they are providing the best service possible.

This education program is a very big deal for the state, as it is an area that drastic improvements are necessary. As Webb puts it, “when you think about Arkansas, we are 46th in the nation in per capita physicians per 1,000 residents. Unity Health made a decision to invest in physician education, and it has really paid off for this community. We are going to continue to grow that program, because it is good for physician education, and it is good for the state of Arkansas to be able to train and retain physicians here. It has been a positive economic driver.”

Because of their education program, Unity Health has created an additional 200 jobs for the community, bringing the company job total to over 2,300 associates. They are the largest employer in an eight-county area that includes Cleburne, Independence, Jackson, Lonoke, Prairie, Van Buren, White and Woodruff counties.

Unity Health has three hospital locations — two in Searcy and one in Newport — and 20 clinics in six different cities. Their dedication to quality speaks for itself through awards won and collaboration with the Mayo Clinic. They have established themselves as one of the premier healthcare providers in the state, that should transcend them beyond the stereotype of being just a rural hospital.

The most important thing Unity Health offers is peace of mind, something that is priceless when it comes to healthcare. Johnston sums this up perfectly.

“We give our patients peace of mind, but that peace of mind goes both directions. So, when we talk about peace of mind, it’s peace of mind for that patient, but it is confidence then that our medical staff is astute, is knowledgeable and up on the latest literature and treating our patients appropriately.”

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