Telemedicine Expands Tribal Healthcare - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Telemedicine Expands Tribal Healthcare

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A visit to the doctor can be quite a trip for people in rural areas.

For example, on the Fort Berthold Reservation, some people are two full hours away from a doctor on most days.

But a new telemedicine system promises to make it easier for tribal members to get the care they need.

This heartbeat could signal a big change in the delivery of medical services on the Fort Berthold Reservation. The beating heart is being heard, both by the nurse holding the stethoscope in Parshall, and by a doctor - many miles away at the Elbowoods Memorial Health Center in New Town.

(Dawn Berg, Elbowoods Memorial Health Center CEO) "Reducing the barriers to care."

The barriers the health center's CEO speaks of are being broken down by technology - in this case telemedicine.

(Dr. Zane Rising Sun, Clinical Director) "It's going to do great things. We're so excited about it."

Dr. Zane Rising Sun is a family practice doctor and clinical director at Elbowoods and a man who has to try to figure out how to get doctors to the far corners of the sprawling reservation.

(Dr. Zane Rising Sun, Clinical Director) "It's a couple hours drive out to Twin Buttes and close to an hour out to White Shield."

Enter telemedicine

(Dr. Zane Rising Sun, Clinical Director) "It's going to allow us to serve the people in the remote communities that maybe don't have a doctor on staff that day."

So a patient with a rash (Rose Davis, Elbowoods Memorial Health Center) "They can come in the next day and we can reexamine it."

or perhaps some ear pain...

(Rose Davis, Elbowoods Memorial Health Center) "Alright, we're going in..."

Can be seen by a doctor - even when the doctor's not right there at the time.

(Rose Davis, Elbowoods Memorial Health Center) "I'm able to show the ear to Zane in New Town and he's able to look at the same thing I'm going to look at and be able to prescribe medicine and they won't have to go to New Town.

(Dr. Zane Rising Sun, Clinical Director) "It just overall will increase our ability to see patients, to remove the barriers to our patients we've had for so long ever since they made the lake some of the communities have been isolated and so having that ability helps us reach them."

Dr. Rising Sun says this system - that's going on line right now - will also open more doors to better medical care for tribal members through hookups with specialists far away.

(Dawn Berg, Elbowoods Memorial Health Center CEO) "Patients won't have to travel to Mayo, to Trinity, to Sanford, to St. Alexius, and we can really provide services at home."

(Dr. Zane Rising Sun, Clinical Director) "So we can save them the cost of that visit, the time away from work... "

But the reach may also be closer to home - maybe even right in the homes of people who have trouble reaching a clinic.

(Dr. Zane Rising Sun, Clinical Director) "Start reviving that old house call type of medicine that used to be here but doing it through the telemedicine service."

The doctor stresses that the gold standard remains a patient having direct contact with a doctor. But he knows the reality is that sometimes that can't happen, and the new telemedicine system could be the heartbeat of a new era of care on the reservation. In Parshall, Jim Olson, KX News.

CEO Dawn Berg is thankful the tribal council provided the hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to get telemedicine going on the reservation.

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