SHERIDAN — Back in October, Marta Ostler pitched her business plan to the Start-Up Challenge, based on almost 27 years in physical therapy and wound care. Her big idea: patients need to be able to access care from home (or a senior center, relative’s house, etc.) because traveling to a brick-and-mortar building for health care in a timely manner can be a challenge for some.

Ostler’s goal with Purpose Physical Therapy is to offer a mobile, on-site, physical and skin rehabilitation clinic that can reach Sheridan County’s rural community.

“I can’t say to my surprise, but I was happy that the more that I looked, the more than I realized this is a need,” Ostler said in October. “This is a national need and I believe very much — and I just know this very deeply — that this is something that will be happening in the United States.”

The Wyoming Department of Health is tuning into new health care models like Ostler’s with an open request for “creative health care solutions” to address Wyoming’s health care challenges. Last year, the Legislature set aside $1 million for a health care innovation study, to be regulated and administered by WYDOH.

Projects looking to make the cut must meet at least one of the criteria: reducing costs for long-term care and/or chronic disease, developing new long-term health care services or using broadband internet to access services.

The application is open until June 30.

Public information officer Kim Deti said the funding could be divided among several applicants if they meet the criteria and each request less than the total $1 million for their project. As of Jan. 21, 12 entities had shown interest in applying, Deti said.

When applications close, three WYDOH officials or employees with “relevant expertise and no conflict of interest” will select the winning projects. Per statutory rules associated with the legislative appropriation, any monetary award is contingent upon approval with the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office, Deti said.

Ostler said she plans to apply if she can identify appropriate data points and an objective outcome for the project that would develop useful metrics, even if her hypothesis failed. She’ll be researching admission and readmission rates to Sheridan Memorial Hospital and exploring potential partnership opportunities with primary care physicians via telehealth.

Ostler said she anticipates the future of health care is headed toward home-based services, including specialty care. It depends on what methods of delivery can be established as sustainable and efficient.

Ostler is accustomed to feeling ahead of the curve in her field, but forward thinking can come with some growing pains.

Stepping out into an unknown territory like her mobile business has been an exercise in patience and problem solving.

As opposed to a brick-and-mortar clinic where patients walk in the door, Ostler has to find her patients. Fewer patients translates into fewer payments. She hopes creating a metric to show need will spark the conversation around what she’s trying to do with health care, Ostler said.

“That’s the whole purpose of my idea with this business — is not as a huge competition but a service to people,” Ostler said. “It can be a competition in that brick-and-mortar clinics still want patients to come into them, but if it’s not convenient for the patient…whether you look at it as a competition or not, there’s a niche. There’s a need.”