Mayo debuts at Mall of America

Published 9:00 am Thursday, August 11, 2011

By Jim Adams

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

BLOOMINGTON — Mayo Clinic is making its debut in the Twin Cities health marketplace Thursday with a high-tech health-and-wellness display at the Mall of America.

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The internationally known medical center based in Rochester gave reporters a peek at its “Create Your Mayo Clinic Health Experience” the day before its opening. The facility sports three-dimensional computer monitors, kiosks for the casual shopper and “navigator” specialists to help people assess their health and map out a wellness program.

“We consider this a lab as we try to decide what we want to offer in a permanent facility, if we do that,” said Dr. David Hayes, medical director for the mall project.

The idea is to gather customer and patient opinion to guide development of a facility Mayo would like to build in the Phase II expansion of Mall of America, officials said.

Mayo has been creeping closer to the Twin Cities market in recent weeks. Last month, Mayo Clinic Health System, which has 70 medical facilities in the Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, acquired the former Queen of Peace Hospital in New Prague. That Scott County hospital has three branch clinics in Belle Plaine, Le Sueur and Montgomery.

Also in July, Mayo opened a $10 million oncology treatment center in Northfield, near the campus of Northfield Hospital.

The Twin Cities market already has big health care providers, including Allina Hospitals and Clinics, Fairview Health Services, which includes University of Minnesota Medical Center, and Park Nicollet Health Services.

But Mayo says its strategy is different.

“We are not competing,” said John La Forgia, Mayo’s chief marketing officer and a project strategist. “We have something unique. This is about health and wellness, not the kind of service provided by a hospital. … We are not developing a major new hospital.”

But anyone stopping at the mall can easily connect with Mayo doctors and resources in Rochester, Hayes said. Mayo has a two-year lease on its first-floor space and on a more traditional office nearby.

Standing by a computer monitor in one of the three traditional exam rooms, Hayes explained the Rochester connection. By using video technology, doctors in Rochester can get the pulse or blood pressure of a patient in the mall medical office. The doctors can see video of a skin lesion or other symptoms and diagnose conditions with some assistance from a medical worker at the mall office, he said.

La Forgia declined to put a price tag on the mall project cost or what kinds of revenue its expects to generate there. Patients would typically pay for mall services out of pocket, he said.

Mayo has a letter of intent with the Mall of America giving the clinic first choice of a space in the upcoming mall expansion, he added.

“We would like to do it, but there is no commitment that we will definitely do it,” he said.

Mayo has retained the Campbell Mithun advertising agency to publicize its new venture, La Forgia said. Mayo is also the only provider allowed to offer health fairs or any other health-related activity at the mall for two years, Hayes said.

The “Health Experience” space is based on extensive market research over nearly two years. Mayo interviewed mall shoppers and held focus groups from a wide age range of people in Minneapolis, Chicago, San Francisco and London. The goal is to find out what kind of health care and delivery vehicle people want going into the 21st century.

“This is a global destination,” La Forgia said of the mall. “We think of ourselves globally.”

He noted that London was chosen because England sends more people to the Mall of America than most other nations.

Mayo’s Health Experience is sandwiched between a teddy bear store and the American Girl doll shop.

The kiosks and wellness experts offer shoppers a convenient way to move health care delivery away from hospitals and doctor’s offices. The space offers quick access to as much or little medical information and service as consumers desire.

“We talk to people at the mall and at other malls and ask, ‘What would you want?’” Hayes said. “This is a lab to find out what will work in this space [and] to keep Mayo relevant and give people more information about their health and wellness using high quality materials.”