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McKenzie County Healthcare Systems to Expand Services with Participation in National Pilot Project


McKenzie County Healthcare Systems has announced their participation in the Frontier Community Health Integration Project (FCHIP), a CMS (Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services) pilot project, scheduled to begin August 1st. McKenzie County Healthcare Systems (MCHS), the only healthcare facility in McKenzie County, will be able to provide enhanced Telehealth services for various medical consultations and interventions to patients accessing healthcare services.

The FCHIP Demonstration Project will allow for enhanced ‘cost-based’ reimbursement for eligible Critical Access Hospitals by offering waivers in three healthcare areas: Telehealth, Swing Bed and Ambulance Services. Telehealth uses digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to allow for face-to-face interaction for rural patients with specialists located in large hospital systems hundreds of miles from rural hospitals. Digital images can also be forwarded to specialists for diagnostic evaluation and determination of treatment.

MCHS currently uses Telehealth to allow our emergency room physicians to access the expanded expertise of the emergency room physicians associated with Sanford Health. MCHS will implement Telehealth services in phases. Initially, services of a Registered Dietician will be utilized to provide counseling and guidance in association with the Diabetes Education program. Once that program is operating smoothly, MCHS will transition into offering adolescent psychiatric services. Beyond the above, the expectation is to continually add additional physician specialty services through our Telehealth offerings.

Daniel Kelly, CEO at MCHS, said, “The FCHIP Demonstration is slated for a three year period and will include hospitals in Montana, North Dakota and Nevada. With the proposed increase in payment, rural hospitals can enhance the services they provide to their community members. Having access to specialty services with Telehealth has the potential to prevent avoidable transfers to larger facilities, while keeping patients in their hometown healthcare facility, and ultimately, reducing medical costs.”

Jerry Jurena, President of the North Dakota Hospital Association, reports, “This federal project will strengthen the healthcare delivery model in North Dakota by increasing access to care. The project will create increased funding opportunities for hospitals so services and healthcare professionals remain in rural areas. Without federal projects like FCHIP, rural hospitals may need to limit the services they provide to a community. The North Dakota Hospital Association supports this project because it helps enhance the healthcare infrastructure in rural North Dakota.”

The population of McKenzie County may preclude the healthcare systems’ ability to attract full-time specialists such as a cardiologist or neurologist. When MCHS can, they will attempt to attract those specialists to come to Watford City on a part-time basis. “When it is not practical to have a specialist physically present in Watford City, Telehealth can allow us to offer the services of those providers to our community,” comments Daniel Kelly, CEO of MCHS. “Once again I applaud the Board of Trustees and leadership in having the vision to continually strive to provide the most comprehensive medical care we can based on our geography and population.”


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