Because medical specialists tend to be based in urban areas, residents of rural areas in Idaho and Wyoming must travel long distances to receive specialized care. Similarly, health professionals in those rural areas have little access to continuing education opportunities. Telemedicine, the use of sophisticated, secure electronic communications to connect health professionals and patients is an important solution. With the assistance of a grant from the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, members of The Hospital Cooperative collaborated to establish the Cooperative Telehealth Network in 2005.
Twelve member hospitals and Health West Clinics, a Pocatello-based Federally Qualified Health Center that serves multiple rural areas in Idaho, are connected to the Network. The Cooperative Telehealth Network is one of many across the country that can be interconnected as necessary. Numerous professional educational opportunities exist via the Cooperative Telehealth Network.
The Hospital Cooperative is working to make the services of physician specialists more accessible to rural communities. With the leadership of medical director William Hazle, M.D., adult psychiatric services have been provided to Afton, American Falls, Malad, Montpelier, Soda Springs, and Salmon, Idaho via the Cooperative Telehealth Network since 2007. Currently, oncology services are being delivered in several other communities as well.
With grants from the Idaho Community Foundation, the Portneuf Health Care Foundation, and the Steele-Reese Foundation, The Hospital Cooperative has paid for telepsychiatry services for some patients without mental health insurance who could not otherwise afford that care.
Portneuf Medical Center and The Hospital Cooperative are dedicated to providing clinical services to member hospitals.