By Martin Kidston
With its production servers growing old and its computation capacity limited, Partnership Health Center in Missoula was pleased to hear it will receive $68,000 to purchase new equipment.
And it’s not alone.
Seventeen local community health centers across Montana will receive a combined $864,000 from the Community Health Center Fund under the Affordable Care Act. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., announced the funding last week.
It came as welcome news to Missoula’s Partnership Health Center.
“We have servers and they’re really old,” said Jody Faircloth, the health information technology director at PHC. “We’re running a lot of our systems on it. We’re using this money to replace those servers and upgrade them at the same time.”
If a critical piece of PHC’s information technology were to fail, Faircloth said, it could take weeks to find new parts for the old servers. That could potentially slow or stop the health center’s care of patients.
The non-profit center aims to improve access to quality and affordable primary health care. To do so, Faircloth said, it needs functioning equipment.
“We have a pharmacy here. We have a dental program here. We have a medical program here and behavioral health,” he said. “People don’t do that on paper anymore. They use computers and software to provide those services.”
Funding for the grants comes through the Health Center Cluster program, one of several programs that distribute ACA funding to community health centers across the country.
The fund was extended with bipartisan support in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. The 17 centers to receive funding in Montana also include the Flathead City-County Health Department at $56,000, and Sapphire Community Health in Hamilton at $40,000.
“The future of rural health depends on the quality of our community health centers,” Tester said. “These centers are the first and sometimes only source of care many rural families have access to, so supporting these centers is critical to keeping these communities healthy.”
Faircloth said the $68,000 in funding earmarked for PHC will also enable the center to purchase a Disaster Recovery Server, housed off site.
It also funds the purchase of new networking equipment. Combined, the technology will improve PHC’s capacity to provide data and patient services by upgrading existing hardware, or purchasing hardware that’s needed but not yet part of PCH’s infrastructure.
“When we’re buying these servers, we’re not buying them to handle what we need today,” Faircloth said. “We’re buying them by looking at the size of our growth and data growth. The new servers will be sized to meet the needs of data storage and computation for the entire organization for the next five years.”
Contact reporter Martin Kidston at firstname.lastname@example.org