MARYVILLE, Tenn. — Blount Memorial Hospital is joining a network of more than 40 hospitals nationwide.

The hospital officially joined the Mayo Clinic Care Network on Thursday. Hospital leaders said they will now be able to access health care experts and other resources -- without increasing patients' bills. 

According to Hal Naramore, a chief medical officer and in-house legal counselor at Blount Memorial, the network will help patients get treatment without traveling. 

"We're excited about it, because it allows our medical staff to access world-class expertise at the number one health care system in the world. And this can be done most of the time without the patient leaving Blount County or where they live," Naramore said.

Naramore said the Mayo Clinic Care Network provides information-sharing systems, expert advice on even unusual health issues, and second opinions for patients who are deciding on treatment plans. 

Mayo Clinic employs 3,800 physicians and scientists and 50,900 other health care staff, and several of its hospitals have ranked in the U.S. News & World Report's latest "Best Hospitals" ranking.

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Naramore said the hospital's new network will not interfere with everyday business practices. 

"This isn't an acquisition or a merger, we haven't been bought; not gonna be bought by the Mayo Clinic. It's a collaboration."

Ryan Uitti, Mayo Clinic's Southeast Medical Director for Provider Relations, said the network forms a multi-tiered structure of support, allowing patients to benefit from both local physicians and national specialists.

"We are seeking to provide more support for them as medicine continues to become more complex. We happen to have specialists who can work with the physicians at Blount Memorial," Uitti said. "So the patients here have their local physicians, and those local physicians have the Mayo Clinic."

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