EDITORIAL: With 'Unbound' plan, Mayo aims to remain a leader

Sep. 9—"Lead, follow, or get out of the way."

Chances are pretty good that you've heard some version of that statement from your boss during a company meeting, or from a motivational speaker during a team-building session. Perhaps you read media mogul Ted Turner's 1981 book by that title. Or maybe you're familiar with Gen. George S. Patton's version: "Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way."

Some historians credit English-born American founding father and philosopher Thomas Paine with coining the phrase, but its origins probably don't much matter. This expression was relevant more than 200 years ago, and it's even more relevant in a world where technology's impact on daily life is advancing at breakneck speed.

Mayo Clinic isn't waiting for other medical centers to blaze new trails, chart new courses and envision the future of health care. Mayo isn't going to follow, and it certainly isn't going to get out of the way.

It's going to lead.

That's our big-picture take on the clinic's recently unveiled "Bold. Forward. Unbound. in Rochester" plan. Although the proposal is still being fine-tuned (Mayo's Board of Trustees is expected to sign off on it in November), the project will transform six blocks of downtown Rochester and, in so doing, create a new model of care and a new standard for patient experience.

This week, the Post Bulletin's editorial board sat down with the two co-leaders of the Unbound initiative. Dr. Craig Daniels is a pulmonary and critical care physician, and Bridget Avikainen is the chief administrator for Unbound. The future they envision for Mayo Clinic, and for Rochester as a whole, is compelling to say the least.

This vision includes:

* A system in which Mayo knows when you will arrive for your appointment, directs you to a specific parking spot, greets you there with an escort and/or wheelchair if needed, and knows you by name when you reach the site of care.

* Remote monitoring that would alert outpatients or discharged patients if something is amiss and direct them back to the appropriate site for follow-up care — as opposed to patients wondering and worrying whether they should call their doctor or go to the emergency room.

* State-of-the-art, energy-efficient, fully integrated facilities that will decrease the time patients spend moving from one site to another and improve their overall experience in Rochester.

That's heady stuff, but this vision also is a tacit admission that Mayo Clinic, despite its best-in-the-world status, isn't perfect. It can be a daunting, labyrinth-like place for first-time visitors. Waiting rooms get crowded, with patients sometimes standing in a long line just to check in. Parking can be a major challenge. Getting from one appointment to another, in a different building, can be stressful. And yes, some of the clinic's workhorse buildings — including the Mayo Building and Methodist Hospital — are showing their age in ways that patients might not always see, but doctors and staff certainly do.

That's important, because Mayo Clinic won't remain at the top of the medical world unless it can continue to recruit and retain the best doctors, nurses, administrators and technicians. Top talent can demand great facilities. So, while we see the Unbound initiative as further proof of Mayo's long-term commitment to Rochester, it might be even more important that Unbound shows future employees Mayo will invest in their careers and practices for the long haul — practices that might evolve dramatically during the next 50 years.

Change, of course, is seldom easy. Demolition and construction across six blocks of downtown Rochester will bring temporary challenges for patients, employees, downtown businesses and downtown residents — and that's just the physical, tangible price of progress. People fear the unknown, and patients who receive their care from Mayo "satellite" sites in other communities might already be wondering if the clinic's massive investment in Rochester will spell trouble for their hometown clinics.

Not to worry. Daniels and Avikainen assured us that Mayo Clinic Health System sites actually will benefit from the clinic's expansion in Rochester, with greater patient access to expert care and state-of-the-art medical services — often without having to leave their hometown.

Still, we must admit that our meeting with Mayo Clinic didn't answer all of our questions. We don't know the cost of the Unbound initiative, because Mayo doesn't know it, either. We don't know how many employees the clinic will add to its payroll. We don't know how parking will be handled when a major ramp is demolished. And we don't know how long it will take for this exciting vision for the future to become reality.

What we do know, however, is that Mayo Clinic isn't sitting on its laurels. It's looking ahead, with the goal of providing care that is more personal and patient-friendly than anything we could have imagined.

We're also certain that when this vision becomes reality, other medical centers across the nation will have little choice but to follow Mayo Clinic's lead.