More than 70% of Montana’s population live in rural communities and rely, at least in part, on the local health care system for life-saving emergency services and primary medical care. Access to health care is already a challenge for Montana’s rural residents and is expected to get worse. Health care reform, physician shortages, rapidly changing technology, new electronic medical record systems and a national increase in rural hospital closures are all increasing the burden on our already taxed rural health care systems. In general, rural communities have a higher percentage of elderly residents, and lower incomes. In addition, the data show that rural populations have more chronic conditions and are less likely to be insured than their urban counterparts. Nearly 50 percent of rural residents report living with at least one major chronic illness. Chronic diseases such as hypertension, cancer, and chronic bronchitis are 1.2 to 1.4 times more prevalent in rural and frontier areas than urban cities. An event focusing on innovation for the future of rural medicine will be held in Missoula Friday through Sunday, March 20–22, at the University of Montana. The Hacking Rural Medicine Event is modeled after MIT’s Hacking Medicine Program and will also be facilitated by MIT’s team. MIT’s Hacking Medicine program has held more than two dozen events worldwide, helping to develop solutions to some of medicine’s toughest problems. The Missoula event is the first of its kind focusing on rural health care. Montana’s Frontier Medicine Better Health Partnership and UM’s Blackstone Launchpad program brought the MIT program to Missoula. While rural Montana faces many challenges, bringing communities together to create innovative solutions is the key. According to Diane Smith, CEO of American Rural and a judge at the event, “Positive changes are happening across rural America.” Smith goes on to say that she believes, “We are entering a Rural Renaissance of sorts, which includes the redesign of rural medicine.” The rural medicine hackathon is bringing together some of the brightest minds in rural medicine along with business people, entrepreneurs, engineers, social workers, patients, students, techies, and innovators. More than 100 people are registered to attend and are coming from across Montana and from more than 14 other states, including some of the nation’s most prestigious medical centers and rural health organizations. The event kicks off on Friday at 7p.m. in UM’s Urey Underground Lecture Hall with a series of high-energy presentations and an official Ignite event. Presenters include keynotes by Terry Hill, executive director of Rural Health Innovations, and senior adviser to the National Rural Health Resource Center, and Sarah Calhoun, rural community leader and entrepreneur, and founder of Red Ants Pants. Ignite speakers include Dr. Mark Lindsay, assistant professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and medical director for Allevant, and local Missoula entrepreneurs including Ken Wall of Geodata Systems and Cindy Jimmerson of Lean Healthcare West, among others. A full agenda and speaker list is available on the event website, at The MIT-facilitated hackathon starts on Saturday morning at 9a.m. at The Payne Native American Center on the UM campus. The event and goes through Sunday afternoon and ends with a series of team-solution presentations. Presentations will be judged, and participants have the chance to win cash prizes and recognition for their innovations. The public is welcome and invited to attend the Friday night Ignite Rural Medicine event, along with the Hacking Rural Medicine event. These events are open to anyone with an interest or passion for health care and the future of rural Montana. Tickets for both events and a complete schedule are available on the website Sponsors of the event include UM’s Blackstone Launchpad, Vantage Health Analytics, the High Stakes Foundation, Allevant, Lean Healthcare West, Health Technology Services, Providence St. Patrick Hospital, Benefis Healthcare, Western Montana AHEC, Pacific Northwest University Health Sciences, and Datsopoulos, MacDonald, & Lind, among others. For more information, visit or call Monica Bourgeau of the FMBHP at 406-544-3098 or email [email protected]. Information on MIT’s Hacking Medicine program is also available at FMBHP project is supported by a cooperative funding agreement, Funding Opportunity Number CMS-1C1-12-0001, from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, a component of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The contents of this release are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services or any of its agencies.