With a wave to the economics of present-day health care, the St. Paul Heart Clinic will go out of business on Jan. 1 when its 31 cardiologists join the Allina and Health East hospital systems.

Clinics integrating with hospitals has become common as federal reimbursement procedures have become more cumbersome for standalone cardiology groups.

"The wave across the country with cardiology groups has been quite dramatic," said clinic president Dr. Thomas Johnson.

Integration also offers efficiencies of scale and other cost-saving features, including access to extensive electronic health care records. The move also relieves the clinic of the business side of the operation, allowing doctors and staff to concentrate on patient care.

Allina will get 19 of the St. Paul clinic's 31 doctors who will continue to operate out of the facility they currently use at Allina's United Hospital in St. Paul.

HealthEast will get 12 doctors who will operate out of offices in St. John's and St. Joseph's hospitals in St. Paul and eventually Woodwinds Hospital in Woodbury.

Positions have been found for "almost all" of the clinic's 220 nurses and other support staff, Johnson said. Clinic officials said patients should notice little, if any, change in service after the transition is completed. "The only thing might be is if a patient wanted to stay with the same cardiologist it might be at a different site," Johnson said.

The St. Paul Heart Clinic was established in 1974 to serve patients in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Allina operates 11 hospitals and more than 90 clinics. Health East has 1,400 physicians on staff.

David Phelps • 612-673-7269