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Wilderness Health Formed to Improve Patient Quality and Outcomes

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Members of Wilderness HealthWilderness Health, comprised of nine regional health care providers, announced its formation today at a press conference in Duluth. While the member health care providers will remain independent, they will be working together to improve patient quality and outcomes.

Members of Wilderness Health are:

  • Bigfork Valley Hospital, Bigfork
  • Community Memorial Hospital, Cloquet
  • Cook County North Shore Hospital, Grand Marais
  • Cook Hospital, Cook
  • Fairview Range, Hibbing
  • Lake View, Two Harbors
  • Mercy Hospital, Moose Lake
  • Rainy Lake Medical Center, International Falls
  • Aspirus St. Luke's, Duluth

Wilderness Health values rural health care providers but also understands the challenges that can arise providing care in small communities, especially when there are limited resources available. "The nine members of Wilderness Health will be working collaboratively to share best practices and coordinate patient care, which is not always feasible working alone," said Cassandra Beardsley, executive director of Wilderness Health. "By working together we can help ensure patients that their care will continue to be in their local community, just like it always has been," explained Beardsley.

There is incredible value in working together and planning for patient care is an active and continuous process that includes an integrated system of settings, services and providers. Dr. David Spoelhof, medical director of Wilderness Health and chair of the quality committee, said, "It is our goal to collaborate throughout the patient's continuum of care and identify areas for improvement with care coordination." Opportunities for areas of improvement include chronic disease management and critical care transfers.

One of Wilderness Health's first initiatives will be to use data to enhance patient care coordination. We'll be able to identify those patients who have missed preventive screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies. Michael Delfs, CEO of Mercy Hospital in Moose Lake and vice chair of Wilderness Health, said, "By using data, we can identify which patients are at high risk for hospitalizations and work towards preventing that." Expertise will be shared among members while keeping patients in their local communities to receive care.

Some of these enhanced technological health care tools are beyond reach for individual health care providers and Wilderness Health works to create bridges among these rural health care providers. "Wilderness Health's goal is to bring together rural, independent health care providers to share information, resources and best practices to improve health care for patients," says John Strange, CEO of Aspirus St. Luke's and chair of Wilderness Health. "Wilderness Health respects the autonomy of our members, understands that independence creates flexibility and values the expertise of our members. We are not looking to change that but rather build upon it," explained Strange.