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Business & Economics

Innovation in Healthcare as an Economic Driver

Jackie Yamanaka

Driving the Billings economy through innovation in healthcare is the topic of a two-day summit sponsored by Big Sky Economic Development.

Governor Steve Bullock says Billings poised to address the challenges facing the entire state. 

Bullocks says that’s because Billings is already a hub for health care and health care education. He points to the two major hospitals, Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare; the number and breadth of providers; and MSU Billings and Rocky Mountain College.    

“This community is so well positioned to capture that innovation,” Bullock says. “That will not only help drive this economy in Yellowstone County but indeed drive the health care opportunities from my perspective all across the state.”

Bullock says that innovation is already taking place in mental health care with Project ECHO, based out of Billings Clinic.  It uses video conferencing to give primary care providers spread across the state access to mental health clinicians in Billings to talk peer-to-peer about patients and how to treat behavioral health issues in their home communities.

“And when you have the expertise here we ought to be sharing it all across the state,” he says. “We always need to figure out ways in such a huge state of bridging some of the divide and technology can help do that.”

Project ECHO is a public-private endeavor. The Bullock Administration committed $100,000 of Medicaid funding for this pilot project.

Bullock says Project ECHO as just one example of health care innovation. He says another is the medical residency programs in Billings that send providers to rural parts of the state.