In September of 2020, MonTECH began a partnership with the Montana Family to Family Health Information Center to purchase $15,000 in telehealth equipment (funded by a CARES Act Telehealth Award). Montana covers a vast, dramatic geographic area, and connectivity is a challenge. Committed to helping families participate in remote therapies and medical appointments, MonTECH added telehealth equipment to its loan inventory, including mobile hotspots with unlimited data plans, document cameras, smartphone gimbals, and biometric devices like pulse oximeters, EKG sensors, and talking glucose and blood pressure monitors. MonTECH recently received feedback on these expanded telehealth options. Montana Pediatrics, a physician collaborative, serves children via telehealth on the Fort Peck reservation, home to Assiniboine, Nakota, Lakota, and Dakota peoples, including approximately 2,500 children age 0-21. They trialed a mobile hotspot, and Director of Programs and Physician Collaboration Alice Laverdiere reported, "I was able to use the Jetpack to connect in multiple, very rural and poor connectivity areas throughout Fort Peck on the iPad. This was significant in that it will support home visits, visits in the community, and a back-up when on-site connectivity at the clinic is down."
Overall, this was a successful initiative that will have a lasting impact in Montana. For other programs seeking to do something similar, it is important to get feedback from individuals with disabilities, families, and service providers engaged in telehealth to get input and ideas on what equipment would be most helpful. MonTECH's Advisory Council also helped brainstorm and provide feedback on devices. Having the outside input really helped develop a more robust and comprehensive inventory of telehealth items. A lesson learned during this process was that just purchasing the items wasn't enough. With each batch of purchases, targeted social media posts went out across all platforms. MonTECH's outreach coordinator created a large postcard mailer about the project and sent to doctor's offices and therapy clinics across the state. Partnering with the Family to Family Health Information Center allowed for cross-promotion to different audiences, as well. These devices will continue to be highlighted during outreach campaigns as telehealth is an excellent option for families in remote communities who, prior to the pandemic, were having to travel significant distances to obtain services.
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