TeleHealth, primary health clinc for vets sees increased demand


TeleHealth, primary health clinc for vets sees increased demand

HAMILTON, Mont. - Montana has one of the highest per capita populations of veterans in the nation.

Demand for more accessible health care for vets in rural areas is growing.

But it means longer drive times to see a doctor.

The Hamilton VA TeleHealth clinic sees as many as 15 patients a day.

Some of those patients require an hours worth of time with staff.

The clinic has an RN and a TeleHealth technician.

Patients can talk to health care providers through teleconferencing.

It means less drive time.

They can get specialized care in 15 or 20 areas.

"From tele-endocrinology, tele- cardiology, neurology," said technician Marlene Watkins."where a veteran can come here to see one of the specialists."

That specialist might be in Salt Lake City, Missoula, or Fort Harrison.

Patients can get mental health counseling.

More than 100 veterans use the clinic every month.

Seventy of them use TeleHealth.

They come from as far away as Salmon, Idaho.

The clinic offers primary care the old fashioned way too.

Henry Silverio had outpatient surgery on his back in Missoula.

It was time to get his stitches out.

He lives in Darby.

"This is very handy when I'm able to drive to Hamilton," said Silverio," rather than all the way to Missoula."

Ron Sheppard oversees the Missoula clinic and the one in Hamilton.

He sees increasing demand from a baby boom population, and a new wave of Bitterroot vets who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He thinks the staff of two needs to grow with a doctor or nurse practitioner.

"I think this is a great service," said Sheppard, "but I think we've reached the point where there are enough veterans in the Bitterroot that we could use a full time provider.

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