Telemedicine brings improved care to MHA communities
By Jerry W. Kram
It doesn’t take a Christopher Columbus to figure out that it’s a long way from Twin Buttes to New Town, especially when you’re battling construction and oilfield traffic. It’s long been a concern of residents there and in the other outlying communities of the Fort Berthold Reservation that they were being shortchanged because of the concentration of health care services in New Town.
The Elbowoods Memorial Clinic is working to improve service to the reservation’s outlying communities served by satellite clinics by creating a telemedicine network that will allow a tribal member anywhere on the reservation to “see” a doctor any day of the week. Currently, said Dr. Zane Rising Son, Elbowoods’ medical director, a doctor is at the satellite clinics just one or two days a week.
Telemedicine is a system that allows a physician access to all of the information he would normally have by being in the room with a patient, except for touch. A nurse at the satellite clinic can examine a patient and the doctor can see, hear or get the readings from whatever instrument is being used. So, said Dr. Rising Sun, he can listen to a patients breath and heartbeat just like he was holding the stethoscope himself.
Elbowoods Memorial Clinic CEO Dawn Berg said the system will improve the level of care offered across the reservation. Not only will the system allow the clinics doctors to see patients whereever they are, but someday the Elbowoods system will connect with major hospitals such as the Mayo Clinic, giving tribal members access to care they would have had to travel hundreds of miles to access.
“We’re in phase one, where we are using our own providers,” Berg said. “We hope to move to a phase two project where we can really network with any provider in the world. As long as we have a secure network, the access is really unlimited. That will take a little time. We are going to build on the internal system first.”