GREAT FALLS — Gov. Steve Bullock spoke at the Alluvion Health Education Center in Great Falls on Tuesday expressing his support for telemedicine in Montana -- specifically, the benefits to telehealth.
Alluvion Health CEO Trista Besich and Behavioral Health Director Dusti Zimmer expressed their support for telemedicine and lauded it as one of the few positives to come out of the OCVID-19 pandemic.
Telemedicine or telehealth refers to the ability of healthcare facilities and hospitals to provide care for patients virtually, something that has become especially prevalent during a pandemic where in-person contact has been limited since March.
For Alluvion, telehealth means helping COVID-19 patients, but also people who need other medical assistance and either face additional health risks because of COVID-19 or may have trouble getting access to medical services. One oft-impacted group: rural Montanans.
According to the Rural Health Information Hub, an organization supported by the federal Health Resources & Serviced Administration (HRSA) and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), almost 700,000 people in Montana are classified as living in a “rural” area. Besich emphasized that the issue of access to healthcare is especially prevalent for that rural population in the wintertime, which is fast approaching.
According to Besich, before the pandemic, Alluvion Health did not offer any telehealth services, but now 35% of their services can be utilized virtually, and those aren’t just COVID-19-related resources. She told the story of one patient living in a rural area of Montana that was seeking help for substance abuse. When that person could not get to Great Falls, Alluvion was able to assist him virtually, and luckily, his story had a happy ending.
"We need to learn from the good of this along the way. Telemedicine really has been one of those that has changed the ways that we provide care for our patients and Montanans," Gov. Bullock said.