Making Minnesota A Global Mecca for Health Care

This article is a special to the Sunday Star Tribune.

As Minnesota and the nation implement the Affordable Care Act, the Mayo Clinic’s proposal to make Rochester a “destination medical center” is most timely. The proposal has received broad endorsements from Gov. Mark Dayton and members of the Legislature.

Serving on Mayo’s board of trustees this past year, I gained a deeper appreciation of its importance, not just to Minnesota but as a role model for improving the nation’s health.

Unlike most academic health systems, Mayo is not asking for public funds for its $3.5 billion expansion in Rochester. Rather, it is asking the state to allocate about $500 million over 20 years of the new Mayo-generated state tax revenue to help finance the public infrastructure needed to support the growth.

Already the state’s largest employer, Mayo estimates that the destination medical center will create 35,000 to 45,000 new jobs and generate $3 billion in new taxes to the state.

While the proposal works its way through the Legislature, it should inspire a broader vision for Minnesota: to become the Mecca for outstanding health and health care. Health care has long been Minnesota’s strength. We should make it our calling card. Minnesota can become the beacon for the nation in how to create a healthy population by working with the finest health care resources in the country.

Minnesota ranks No. 5 nationally in terms of population health, behind Vermont, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Why shouldn’t we be No. 1? We’re already ranked first among all states for cardiovascular care, fewest sick days and health status.

On the other hand, we have challenges to reduce obesity (we’re ranked No. 15 among the 50 states) and deaths from cancer (No. 16). Minnesota has woefully underfunded public health with only $43 per person per year, which puts us at No. 48. Dayton should launch a “Healthy Living” initiative focused on healthy eating, regular exercise and reduced stress, alcohol use and smoking, supported by active programs from every health care organization and employer.

Based on Prof. Michael Porter’s theory of economic clusters, Minnesota is well positioned to become the national health care leader. With Mayo as the crown jewel, Minnesota can build on its strong base of providers like the University of Minnesota, Allina Health, Fairview, Park Nicollet, Regions and Health East that deliver outstanding patient care.

We also boast national leaders in health plans — UnitedHealth Group and its Optum Health; HealthPartners, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Medica. Mayo and Optum Health recently announced the formation of Optum Labs, a collaborative research initiative to analyze patient outcomes by combining Optum’s claims information with Mayo’s patient data and clinical insights — information essential to move from the current fee-for-service model to reimbursement for health outcomes.

Minnesota also is the birthplace and leader of the medical technology cluster with Medtronic, St. Jude and Boston Scientific, combined with 3M’s prosperous health care business. Just as importantly, there are hundreds of med-tech companies striving to become the next Medtronic.

Finally, Minnesota is the national leader in integrative medicine to improve health and healing. The U’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, Allina’s Institute for Health and Healing, the Marsh, Hazelden and Pathways are national leaders in promoting patient-centered care with healing therapies that emphasize individual responsibility.

Through the collaboration of these exceptional resources — a committed state government, health plans, health care providers and suppliers, and progressive employers — Minnesota should adopt the bold goal of becoming the standard-bearer for the nation’s health. In so doing, we will attract people from all over the nation and the world to Minnesota: to visit, live and improve their health.

When the current legislative session is over, Dayton should convene the state’s health care leaders to devise concrete plans to make this vision a reality.