Mayo Clinic has opened a heart clinic in Northfield, bringing its cardiologists closer than ever to patients in the Twin Cities.

Mayo cardiologists will see patients at Northfield Hospital three days a week and be available via teleconferencing for another two days a week.

"We feel this is just the beginning of our ability to reach the southern metro," said Dr. R. Scott Wright, a cardiologist and director of outreach for Mayo's Department of Medicine.

Mayo has been expanding beyond its flagship Rochester campus for years in southern Minnesota, northern Iowa and western Wisconsin, stitching together a network of rural clinics and hospitals called Mayo Health System.

More recently, it has looked north to the Twin Cities market, where groups such as Allina and Fairview already compete fiercely for patients.

Northfield was attractive to Mayo for several reasons, Wright said. There are two colleges in town, and Mayo already has a relationship with Northfield Hospital, which is owned by the city. Since 2008, Mayo cardiologists have come up to Northfield once a fortnight to see patients.

These patients only need to go to Rochester if they need specialized surgery, Wright said.

Then there's the city's proximity to the Twin Cities. Mayo has run ads in the metro recently reminding potential patients that its services are covered by most insurance plans. It plans a future outpost in the planned second phase of the Mall of America in Bloomington.

"A third to half of the state lives in the metro," Wright said. "We want to make our services closer."

The Northfield announcement came a few weeks after Mayo added telemedicine heart services at nearby Cannon Falls Medical Center, part of Mayo Health System. A number of south metro patients from places such as Eagan already drive to Cannon Falls to see Mayo cardiologists.

Mayo also plans to build a $10 million outpatient cancer treatment center in Northfield, to open in 2011.

Chen May Yee • 612-673-7434