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The thriving Montana landscape spans more than 145,000 square miles, giving residents an abundance of space to enjoy but often distancing them from specialty providers. Because of this, those with complex health issues can feel isolated, especially if they have a chronic condition that requires regular care. Seeking out this care can come with many stressors, including travel, expense and even the side effects of untreated conditions. It is no wonder that these patients wish care would come to them. So, the Logan Health specialists do.

Logan Health has 15 outreach sites across western Montana, frequented by providers disciplined in nearly 30 specialties. Their expertise comes in all forms – pediatric, adult, maternal and more – and includes specialties of all kinds, from cardiology to orthopedics, to endocrinology. When services like these are absent, an area lacking health care professionals is at risk of turning into a medical desert – a region where a population has inadequate access to care. Logan Health providers are aware of this risk, and have
resolved to help fill in those gaps. For them, this means taking time out of their busy schedules to make regular trips to our outreach clinics.

One of the areas where Logan Health outreach providers have been particularly active is the Hi-Line. Being far from major cities, patients in the Hi-Line region often have to travel hours to visit a specialty clinic. In addition, as these towns have a higher average age than most in Montana, Thomas deHoop, MD, travels from Kalispell to Logan older patients may find it difficult or even impossible to coordinate their Health – Shelby to provide OB/GYN care.
care across such a distance. Luckily, the Logan Health facilities in Cut Bank, Conrad, Shelby and Chester host visiting specialists often. As a result, they have seen improved outcomes, personalized care and much higher patient satisfaction.

Logan Health – Shelby was the first critical access hospital to bring general surgery and OB/GYN care to the area with Stephen Milheim, MD, and long-time outreach provider Thomas deHoop, MD. They both have committed to providing outreach care in an effort to further serve their patients.

“It has been a joy to bring OB/GYN care to the Hi-Line in Shelby. I have patients call our office in Kalispell for an appointment, and they are so happy to hear that they can see me in Shelby rather than travel,” deHoop said, “They are always so thankful that we are willing to come to them.”

Dr. Milheim is just as enthusiastic, “Providing outpatient general surgical services for the east side critical access hospitals has been a real joy for me for the past two years. Saving patients hours of driving and providing personalized, safe and efficient care gives our surgical team a real sense of satisfaction.” The Hi-Line’s access to care only continues to improve as more specialty providers join the outreach teams for their facilities.

Another key need across the state is access to care from pediatric subspecialty providers. Traveling subspecialists Claire Steinberg, CPNP-PC, BC-ADM, and Katie Flass, PA-C, drive regularly to outreach clinics to see their patients for endocrinology care. Claire drives from the Missoula area to Helena, and Katie travels from Kalispell to Great Falls. Considering local specialists can be hard to find in Montana, pediatric subspecialists like Claire and Katie are even more rare. “Children deserve to have subspecialty care,” Claire said. “They deserve providers that are both trained in pediatrics and trained to help them with their unique health conditions.” For Katie and Claire, being present in the clinic for their patients is priceless, and the best gift of all is being able to come alongside them on their journey. “Getting to know my patients and their families is really fun,” Katie said. “They’re really personable, sweet families, so it’s a pleasure to take care of them.”

The breadth of this big sky country gives Montanans the responsibility to care for each other and serve the communities across the state. Logan Health’s vision is that every Montanan would receive the care they need, and that goal requires a collective effort. In this way, Logan Health is exceedingly proud of its providers, leaders and staff who are compassionate and committed to this endeavor. As specialty services continue to expand in the state, the outlook is bright that Montanans will have easier access to care to thrive wherever they may be.

Photo 1: Thomas deHoop, MD, travels from Kalispell to Logan Health – Shelby to provide OB/GYN care. Photo from health documentary Siloed by Hazel Cramer.

Photo 2: General surgeon Stephen Milheim, MD, FACS, with a new laparoscopy machine at Logan Health – Shelby.