Kyle Farris

A federal grant will soon allow a handful of hospitals across Northeastern Minnesota to share health information, giving patients more and better options when deciding where to receive care.

At least, that’s the plan.

“Our health system is really moving away from health being in a vacuum,” said Cassandra Beardsley, executive director at the Minnesota Wilderness Health Care Coalition. The coalition was awarded a federal grant for $75,000 last month that will be used to connect the health databases of nine different facilities in the area.

“This will help us better coordinate patient care by sharing information amongst each other,” she said.

Obtained through Minnesota’s State Innovation Model initiative, which originally received the money from the federal government, the grant will be used to implement a platform that will connect the various databases.

The hospitals will continue working from different databases, Beardsley said, but now, they will be able to exchange information remotely. That will allow the coalition to treat patients in a more timely manner and ensure patients are sent to the facility best equipped to care for them, she said.

“What we hope to do is identify where we have gaps in care,” Beardsley said. Under the current system, patients can sometimes experience waits to be treated at a particular facility, even though other care providers in the coalition might be able to see them immediately.

“Being able to exchange that information among providers is really key to offering good patient care,” she said.

Planning and implementation of the new platform will be gradual, Beardsley said, and Wilderness Health still has a few legal hurdles to clear.

“It’s not something where we can just push a button,” she said. “There’s a lot of planning involved with something like this.”

If all goes well, the planning phase of the project will be completed by early 2015, Beardsley said. The goal is to have the new platform up and working in two years.

Wilderness Health is a collaborative care provider founded in 2010. It encompasses nine hospitals and medical centers located across the Arrowhead region, including Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors.

The grant comes from a $3.8 million pot of state funds designated for electronic health projects in Minnesota.

Wilderness Health facilities

Bigfork Valley Hospital in Bigfork

Cook Hospital in Cook

Cook County Hospital in Grand Marais

Fairview Range in Hibbing

Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors

Mercy Hospital in Moose Lake

Rainy Lake Medical Center in International Falls

St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth

Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet