BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Bismarck addiction treatment center is using telemedicine to extend its reach to western North Dakota, a rural region where such services are limited.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that Heartview Foundation in Bismarck received a nearly $155,000 grant to purchase telemedicine equipment. The grant money comes from the federal agency's Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program, which aims to encourage rural communities to use telecommunications to connect to resources and services.
Kurt Snyder, Heartview's executive director, said transportation is a barrier for people seeking treatment or overall access to health care. Patients travel a median distance of 37 miles to the Bismarck addiction treatment center.
Snyder said that rural western North Dakota has "extremely limited services."
Heartview will establish a telehealth system by partnering with physicians at the Towner County Medical Center in Cando and at Coal Country Community Health Center's clinics in Killdeer, Beulah, Hazen and Center. Coal Country has two licensed addiction counselors, who are spread between all of the provider's clinics.
Heartview will serve as a hub for the rural facilities, providing direct patient services, expertise and collaboration opportunities.
"We'd love to have some providers (in western North Dakota), but really, as we interact statewide, we just develop partnerships where we find people that are open to doing the work," Snyder said.
He added that physicians will still have to see patients face-to-face before using telemedicine, which is also important to build rapport.
"Without a doubt, telemedicine is very valuable and research supports that people respond well to it. There's a feeling of, 'I'm safe. I'm not as vulnerable.' However, that (relationship with a provider) is without a doubt important," Snyder said.