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Telehealth To be Used to Reach Addiction Center Clients in Rural Areas

The Heartview Foundation in Bismarck, ND recently received a grant to buy the necessary equipment to introduce telemedicine to its facility. The money was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine, which was established to encourage rural communities to use telecommunications as a way to connect to services and resources.

Transportation a Barrier to Effective Health Care

The addiction treatment center will use the close to $155,000.00 it has received to buy telemedicine equipment. Kurt Snyder, Heartview’s executive director, explained that transportation is a barrier for people who are looking for access to health care, including drug or alcohol addiction treatment.

Clients being treated at Heartview travel a median distance of 37 miles to access treatment. Mr. Snyder points out that rural western North Dakota has what he describes as “extremely limited services” for people who need help for substance abuse.

Hubs Proposed for Rural Resources

The treatment center will set up a telehealth system in partnership with doctors at the Tower Country Medical Center in Cando and at Coal Country Community Health Center medical clinics in Beulah, Center, Hazen and Killdeer. Coal Country has two licensed addiction counselors to provide services between all of the clinics.

The plan is for Heartview to serve as the hub for rural resources. It will provide services directly to clients, as well as provide expertise and opportunities for collaboration with other participants.

Mr. Snyder explained that Heartview interacts with providers across the state. The Foundation develops partnerships where it finds people that are open to doing the work of providing help to those with substance abuse issues.

He explained that doctors will still need to meet with patients personally before starting to use telemedicine services. This step is important to build a rapport between the two.

Mr. Snyder concluded by stating that telemedicine is very valuable and that research supports this method providing services. Clients feel safe sharing information with healthcare providers in this way. He pointed out that establishing a good relationship with the healthcare provider is still crucial.