Tester Announces Funding to Help Connect Patients, Physicians in Rural Montana

Award Will Support Telemedicine Capabilities at Montana Hospitals

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – After hearing directly from local healthcare providers about the importance of telemedicine at his Rural Health Summit back in May, Senator Jon Tester announced today that the Kalispell Regional Medical Center will receive more than $370,000 in funding to help make telemedicine a reality at four different healthcare facilities across the region.

“Telemedicine is one of the most intuitive and effective ways to connect rural communities with the nurses, physicians, and healthcare providers they need,” Tester said. “So I am doing all I can to make sure Montana’s medical centers have the capabilities to utilize this technology and reach rural residents directly.”

The $373,658 award comes from the USDA’s Rural Development program.

“USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program will have a direct impact on Montana residents living in rural communities by helping them better meet the medical and educational needs that may not currently be available in rural Montana. These funds will be used to connect our rural communities with medical and educational experts from across the country, increasing access to health care, substance misuse treatment and advanced educational opportunities. Telemedicine is proving to be an effective tool for treating patients when experts otherwise would be unavailable,” said John Walsh, USDA Rural Development Montana State Director.

This grant will go towards purchasing telemedicine enabled toolkits for Marias Medical Center in Shelby, Pondera Medical Center in Conrad, Northern Rockies Medical Center in Cut Bank, and Eureka Health Prompt Care in Eureka.

“This will allow Critical Access Hospitals to improve the quality of care for rural Montanans and their communities,” said Rebecca Manna, Chief Policy Advisor at Kalispell Regional Medical Center. “And what it really means at the end of the day is that these hospitals will now have the infrastructure to connect with larger hospitals in Montana, and really anywhere, to coordinate care and do even more for their patients and neighbors.”

These toolkits include specialized medical instruments, along with a medical software video module, that allow patients in rural areas to interface with medical practitioners from all over the world. This is particularly valuable for patients who need to see specialists or emergency physicians, which many rural areas lack.

Tester has been one of the Senate’s staunchest advocates for improving the quality and accessibility of rural medicine. Since his inaugural Rural Health Summit, he has also introduced the Restoring Rural Residencies Act, which will bring more medical professionals to Montana’s rural communities.