The article notes:
Where distance makes sharing staff impractical, technology has helped. Wilderness Health, a partnership of nine hospitals in sparsely populated areas of northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, is piloting a telemedicine service funded in part through a HRSA grant. It gives primary care providers in members’ rural clinics on-demand access to independent mental health professionals located throughout Minnesota. The professionals evaluate patients for anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to alleviate long delays in testing for those conditions.
In Minnesota, Wilderness Health formed an ACO in 2015 with the state’s Medicaid agency, which gave hospitals access to data to see “gaps in care and who’s using the emergency department for primary care,” says executive director Cassandra Beardsley. “We used that information to build our care coordination approaches,” she says.
The initial contract called for member hospitals to receive shared savings or incur losses based on their ability to meet quality benchmarks and control costs. Although the ACO achieved savings in its third year, generating revenue that supplemented fee-for-service payments, members asked the state to replace the shared savings and losses approach with a per member per month amount that would be added to fee-for-service payments. “Without that, it’s hard to make sure you’ve got resources for care coordination,” says Beardsley. The per member per month fees, totaling more than $1.8 million over the past four years, are adjusted based on patients’ health and social risks. Wilderness Health has used the funds to hire a care navigator that works with member hospitals, and individual hospitals have hired care coordinators, clinical pharmacists, occupational therapists, and other staff to help patients manage their chronic conditions.
It’s nice to see a local organization receive national press for some behind-the-scenes efforts to make quality of care better for rural Minnesotans (and Duluthians). Wilderness Health connects nine regional hospitals into a collaborative, including St. Luke’s in Duluth, Lake View in Two Harbors, North Shore Heath in Grand Marais, Bigfork Valley Hospital, Cook Hospital, Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet, Fairview Range, Grand Itasca Hospital, and Ely-Bloomenson Hospital.
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