The pilot programs will offer increased access to telehealth services in Orofino and Weippe to those who lack required technology and internet access at home to receive healthcare.
The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health is awarding $30,000 in grants to launch a telehealth pilot program at two libraries in Clearwater County. Both libraries will be able to offer telehealth visits, increasing access to healthcare in rural Idaho.
The Idaho Commission for Libraries and libraries in Orofino and Weippe will use grant funding to purchase necessary technology and equipment required for telehealth appointments to take place at these public facilities. Telehealth allows healthcare providers and patients to meet virtually for many essential medical services.
“Telehealth medicine isn’t an option for many Idahoans because the necessary technology and internet access isn’t available in the homes, especially in rural areas,” said Kendra Witt-Doyle, Executive Director, Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health. “Offering telehealth services in libraries is one way we can increase access to healthcare in rural Idaho. This makes healthcare more convenient. Instead of driving an hour or more to see a doctor, people can go to the local library for the care they need.”
Telehealth services have become a viable alternative to in-person healthcare, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when many doctors’ offices were closed for in-person consultations and services. Many healthcare providers continue to offer telehealth services for the convenience of patients. Telehealth also makes it easier for Idahoans who live in remote areas to access specialists who are based in urban areas.
“Idaho library staff are seeing increased demand for telehealth options and are ready to be part of the solution to increase the health and well-being of Idahoans,” Idaho State Librarian Stephanie Bailey-White said. “They are a natural partner in exploring options for rural residents, and this pilot program will help pave the way for others who want to do more in this area. Libraries are welcoming community institutions with faster internet connections and video conferencing capabilities that many Idahoans don’t have at home. It makes sense to tap into those resources to deliver better services.”
The telehealth services are expected to begin in the coming months.