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Avera eCARE Receives CARES Act Funds to Expand Emergency Telehealth Services

Avera Public Relations

Avera eCARE is receiving more than $800,000 dollars in federal funding to enhance emergency telehealth services. The additional equipment will give rural hospitals much-needed support in caring for COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Brian Skow oversees emergency virtual care for more than 100 sites as the Medical Director for Avera eCARE. He says the federal money will support additional equipment in up to 60 hospitals throughout South Dakota and the Midwest.

“Video conferencing cameras, microphones, high definition monitors," he says. "We have an easy button that’s on the wall that bedside providers can push to get immediate access to emergency medical physicians and nurses.”

Those providers can guide rural physicians through procedures like intubation and ventilation management. Dr. Skow says COVID-19 complicates otherwise common procedures like putting a breathing tube in a patient’s windpipe.

“On a COVID patient we’re seeing a lot more secretions, a lot more swelling.," he explains. "This makes the procedure a lot more difficult.”

But thanks to this additional funding, Avera eCARE physicians can support doctors in rural emergency departments many miles away through the telehealth service.

“So when a bedside provider is looking at a five inch screen looking for the vocal cords to put the tool in the right place, we can see 50 inches of high definition," says Skow. "And these are truly live-saving procedures.”

The telehealth system can also provide support if rural facilities become overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Skow says the new equipment should be available to facilities in a couple months.

Avera is the first site in South Dakota to receive these funds, which are part of the $157 million in federal dollars authorized for pandemic response efforts by the CARES Act.