Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems announced on Wednesday that it has signed a clinical affiliation agreement with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
The agreement means Mainers in the northern half of the state will have access to Mass General’s clinical resources, providing high-level medical expertise not readily available in the Bangor area to patients of Eastern Maine Medical Center.
“Massachusetts General Hospital is a world-class teaching and research hospital,” Matt Weed, senior vice president for strategy and marketing at Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, said. “Where Maine is so close to Massachusetts, being able to take advantage of their expertise is great for us and the patients we serve.”
Massachusetts General, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, is about a 4-hour drive from Bangor, but Weed said many Maine patients will benefit from the affiliation without having to make the trip.
For some time, Weed said, Massachusetts General has provided adolescent psychiatric consulting at Acadia Hospital in Bangor, EMMC’s sister institution under the EMHS umbrella, through a remote telemedicine service. The newly formalized affiliation will lead to more telemedicine opportunities, he said, including a “tele-stroke” service connecting emergency department patients at EMMC and other regional hospitals who have suffered a stroke with Massachusetts General neurology experts.
Patients of smaller hospitals throughout the EMHS network will have access to the expanded services through EMMC.
Other telemedicine opportunities are being considered as well, such as in pediatric subspecialties, orthopedics and cardiac care. While there’s no plan to perform organ transplant surgery in Bangor, Weed said there’s hope for establishing a post-surgical transplant clinic at EMMC where patients can receive complex follow-up care from specialists at the Boston hospital without having to travel.
“EMMC has invested a lot in our resources and facilities,” Weed said, but partnering with Massachusetts General is a “prudent use” of those investments, as opposed to trying to replicate the larger hospital’s clinical infrastructure.
The affiliation will also give Mainers readier access to medical second opinions, clinical trials and other opportunities they may otherwise have had to arrange on their own. Clinicians from Massachusetts General will make trips to Bangor “on a rotating basis,” Weed said, and EMMC could become a clinical education site for Harvard medical students and interns.
EMMC’s longstanding clinical partnership with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston will not be affected by the new agreement with Massachusetts General, he said.
Weed acknowledged that EMMC is sometimes challenged in recruiting top-level physicians to the far-flung Bangor area. The affiliation will help ease the problem in two ways, he said, by promising ambitious professionals who move here ongoing clinical access to one of the nation’s top medical facilities, and by supplementing EMMC’s own medical staff with clinicians in Boston.
The affiliation also paves the way for public health and cancer care partnerships at Mercy Hospital in Portland, also a member of Brewer-based EMHS.
In a joint press release issued Wednesday afternoon, EMHS President and CEO Michelle Hood said the organization is “enthusiastic” about the collaboration.
“There is a tremendous opportunity to make meaningful progress on tackling our mutual challenge of improved care at a lower cost,” Hood said.
At Massachusetts General, President Peter Slavin, a physician, said clinicians at the Boston hospital are “excited to have the opportunity to work with their neighbors to the north.”
Massachusetts General Hospital has existing clinical affiliations with Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston and with York Hospital.
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