National health experts are looking to South Dakota strategies as they discuss rural health care. The US Department of Health and Human Services showcased Avera’s telemedicine efforts with viewers around the country. It was part of an effort about National Rural Health Day.
Avera’s eCare services use high-quality video and audio to connect Sioux Falls physicians with small town hospital staff. This allows doctors and nurses to collaborate on treating rural patients in real time.
Deanna Larson is CEO of Avera eCare. She says health leaders first thought of telemedicine as a way for patients who live in rural areas to gain access to specialists like lung or heart experts.
"Certainly that’s very important, and we have many of those experts in place to reach out to those living, you know, 60/100/150/200 miles away," Larson says. "But as we introduced these services, then, in in the emergency department where you have a group of physicians reaching out to another group of physicians to take care of a patient, we began to realize that medicine is really meant to be delivered in community. Providers are trained to work beside each other and with each other, and so, as they really get to work off of each other’s talents and skill sets, they really bring the best to the patient."
Larson says doctors and nurses develop trust. She says telemedicine offers rural doctors and nurses more confidence in their work, and technology arms them with experience to know which patients they can treat and which need to transfer to larger facilities for treatment.
Larson says virtual access to seasoned physicians is a recruitment tool, because more young doctors are willing to work in rural settings if they know they aren’t alone.