Expanded Care

Published 4:37 am Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Mayo wing boosts patient experience

Dr. Darryl Barnes, an orthopedic physician, has been with Mayo Clinic Health System — Albert Lea and Austin for about four years. He came from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where he worked since 1996 and did his residency. Barnes headed to Austin in 2009 to help the clinic establish its musculoskeletal division. At that point, a $28-million expansion project was still in its infancy.

“The planning actually started in 2008,” he said. “It’s really exciting to see it come to fruition.”

The expansion, which opened in January 2013, brings orthopedics, radiology, pain management, podiatry and physical therapy all to the same branch of the hospital, where each are given their own hall. Doctors in those areas have offices next door to one another, so they can easily collaborate and possibly cut down on the number of visits a patient has to make.

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“It allows us to see patients more efficiently,” Barnes said.

While these services were all previously offered by the clinic, they traditionally were organized in a way that was difficult for patients to understand. The eye clinic was in a separate building in a different part of town altogether, but now it will be right by the expansion’s new entrance.

“It’s all been all over the place,” Barnes said.

At the same time, patients can more easily understand the layout and use color-coding cues to navigate. It’s no longer a trip up and down stairs to find the radiology department for an X-ray; a patient can walk down the hall and even hit the changing room along the way. Educational materials will be available in the spacious waiting rooms — part of the sleek, clean appearance of the expansion.

The expansion allows for a patient-centered approach, where the same group of people can work with a patient again and again.

“One person being taken care of by a team,” Barnes said. “It’s going to serve them better.”

Jennifer Levisen, public affairs specialist at the medical center, said the effort was part of a refocusing that changed the concept of sick care to “well care.”

Barnes’ role in the expansion project focused on the design of the lower level. He had finished his new house in Austin just before the expansion began, and that experience left practical design concerns fresh in his mind.

“How can we do it and make it attractive to our patients?” he said, pointing to the inclusion of natural light even on the lower level as key.

But the importance of aesthetics goes beyond patients.

“It’s key in retention of staff,” Barnes said. “It’s nice to be in a place that looks good.”

He also helped fundraise 10 percent of the total cost needed through donations. He helped spur staff, community members and other physicians to contribute.

The expansion, which includes a new entrance, a cafe and a medical supply shop, finished four months ahead of schedule. Gentle winter weather expedited the construction schedule.

The expansion was a time of change for everyone, including Barnes, who had yet to settle into his new office in early January.

“I don’t have anything in there yet,” Barnes laughed.