Is it a Destination or a Theme Park?

The Mayo’s Destination Medical Center appears to be a done deal.  Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars will transform Rochester into a gilded city worthy of hosting a gold standard of health care in the world, but something’s missing from all the talk – patients.

We know a little about what Rochester could look like, but it’s a lot more than we know what the Mayo could look like.  Rochester is slated to build new bridges, hotels, streets, and even a high-speed train from Minneapolis.   The DMC will create the optimal experience for patients and their families with world-class amenities to match their level of care.  That means hotels, restaurants, where patients and/or their families could enjoy lavish accommodations and entertainment while getting better.

In fact, both Minnesota Public Radio and the Rochester Post-Bulletin have reported that for more than two years, DMC was a top-secret project.  No one in the newspaper’s newsroom had even heard of the DMC, even though the P-B’s publisher was in on some of the meetings.  Evidently, a contract of confidentiality had to be signed just to be in the meeting.


The Mayo even agreed on a logo for the DMC after putting the design out to competitive bid in April, 2010-more than two years before the DMC project became public knowledge.

The Mayo has only hinted, for example, that a new $100 m tower at St. Mary’s hospital is probably first to be built as it can dovetail from a current construction project.  What kind of care will be available in this tower, we don’t know.  The Mayo receives more than $100 million in competitive peer review grants into cancer research alone, but the public amenities seem more open to discussion than any cutting edge technology.

By contrast, the Cleveland Clinic’s medical campus extols the innovation alley that’s being created to foster new technology that will bring better care to new patients.

The Mayo says 30,000-40,000 people will be hired over the next 20 years to create a world-class medical campus to compete with the Cleveland Clinics and the Johns Hopkinses of the world.  There’s no talk of whether any of those new workers will be doctors and nurses or valets and food servers.  It appears that patient satisfaction surveys have become more important than the patient outcomes and that marketing has become more marketing than medicine.

The Mayo could be a Destination Medical Center by ensuring that enough nurses and staff are hired to safely care for serious patients and promote better outcomes.  The Mayo could be a destination for innovative care by seeking out the toughest cases the medical world sees and solving those cases, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.

There are other questions too.  Such as, will these “new” buildings include current union employees? And will agreements be in place to assure labor peace before construction begins?

But the biggest question remains, will patients make Rochester a destination without knowing what level of care they’ll receive?