DULUTH — In rural areas, it can be difficult for hospitals and clinics to share patient information with each other if they are in different systems. A new partnership will help health-care providers communicate — and save time and money in the process.
“Our service allows doctors to see where medical records are, and it can help eliminate errors; it speeds up care and makes things more efficient,” said John Fraser, CEO of MEDNETWorld.com, which provides the service. “The main thing it does for the patient is that they won’t have to fill out all those forms if they change doctors or providers.”
MEDNET is working with the Community Health Information Collaborative (CHIC) in Duluth to provide its service to health-care providers across Northeastern Minnesota. If one of CHIC’s members needs to share information with another member, CHIC will use the MEDNET technology to make it happen.
“This will have a real impact on the ability to share patient information,” said Cheryl Stephens, executive director of CHIC, a nonprofit that uses technology to find ways to make it easier for its members to share information. “If an emergency patient is taken down to St. Luke’s [in Duluth] but is coming from Cook, in an emergency they could go ahead and look for the patient data.”
Stephens said that eventually CHIC will be able to use the service to share the actual patient data, rather than just find members that can share data with each other.
“And eventually it will allow us to connect anywhere in the country,” Stephens said. “With all the snowbirds we have up here, that can be very useful.”
In rural areas, where most physicians and hospitals tend to be independent, sharing information is a challenge. Long-term care providers, such as nursing homes, can also become members of CHIC and use the services to improve efficiency. Fraser said new doctors are more attracted to systems that are automated, and if a rural health-care provider has that automation, it’s another selling point to draw new doctors in.
The service is required by state law to offer an opt-out for patients, and is protected by security protocols that are mandated by the federal government and similar to what the U.S. military uses, Fraser said.
“We don’t store the information; we’re not a big database,” Fraser said. “We make sure a patient’s information stays with a doctor.”