Themes Emerge at Montana Roundtable

Frontier clinics and rural hospitals have lower patient numbers than larger institutions, yet they serve a vital role in rural healthcare. However, officials at the federal level don’t always take this into account when they devise national healthcare funding mechanisms and regulations.

That was a recurring theme during a recent Billings, MT, roundtable discussion between rural healthcare providers, Helmsley’s Rural Healthcare Program, and the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).

“The traditional reimbursement model for rural health is becoming challenging. We don’t have the time and people to meet all of the evolving changes,” said Paul Lewis, CEO of Holy Rosary Healthcare in Miles City, MT, one of the roundtable participants.

The group included hospital administrators, physicians, association and network representatives, and local experts in telemedicine, graduate medical education, reimbursement, and other fields.

It was the first of three such roundtables, part of a Helmsley-supported research project, in which BPC will examine the healthcare challenges in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Nebraska, and other rural states. BPC aims to identify policy changes that could ensure continued access to healthcare for rural Americans.

This roundtable primarily discussed issues within three key topics: telemedicine; provider workforce and physician training; and financial stability and quality care at Critical Access Hospitals. Participants also raised issues such as non-provider workforce needs, mental health, rural housing, and the importance of partnerships, networks, associations, and peer learning groups.