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Feather River Tribal Health turns to telehealth

Feather River Tribal Health Centers are using technology to link patients with doctors with telehealth.

Posted: Jul 14, 2020 8:34 AM
Updated: Jul 14, 2020 8:40 AM

OROVILLE, Calif. -- A regional health care provider is tapping into technology to better link patients with doctors during the coronavirus pandemic.

Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough recently talked with representatives of Feather River Tribal Health Centers about a new funding grant opportunity allowing the provider to upgrade technological infrastructure.

The health centers have turned a $123,000 grant from Health Net, LLC., into a tool to make sure one unique population can use ZOOM to access needed care and utilize telehealth options for patients and doctors.

Feather River Tribal Health C.E.O. Mary Hunzeker describes it as the first step.

“This is a new wave of health care that’s coming because of Covid-19 and beyond,” says Hunzeker.

The health system can now work with patients throughout the region to connect them virtually with doctors for medical appointments and other consultations.

In-person visits are still available but for patients who feel more comfortable not making those trips, they now have options.

Of the health systems roughly eight-thousand Oroville clients, administrators say 40% are Native American.

Hunzeker says, “Feather River is sponsored by the Tyme Maidu of Berry Creek, the Concow Maidu of Mooretown Rancheria and the Estom Yumka Maidu of Enterprise Rancheria.”

Health care providers say the ability to reach patients is crucial and not just for Covid-19 safety.

Center Medical Director Dr. Melina Skau, says Diabetes is prevalent within the Native American community and requires routine medical interaction and attention.

She says offering patients a robust telehealth option addresses medical issues but also takes into account cultural considerations.

“One of the very high values that our Native Americans carry is family, so knowing they can be seen from the comfort of their own homes without exposing their family to any Covid-19 risk is extremely important to them.”

C.E.O. Hunzeker sees the move to telehealth as just the beginning; and an approach to medical care that will live on long after Covid-19.

“Changes are going to be on the horizon and we have to be prepared to move into the next stage of care and what that looks like.”

Both the Oroville and Yuba City locations now have upgraded telehealth capabilities.

Administrators say the next challenge will be making sure those living in more remote, rural areas with poor internet connectivity but who need medical care, will be able to zoom connect.

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