Healthcare at Home

Healthcare at Home

Everyone has likely heard about someone’s struggle to receive medical care. They drove hours for a quick appointment, experienced long wait times and endured cancellations. Or maybe they suffered a medical crisis in a community without emergency care.

Thankfully, these stories are becoming old news due to the rise of telemedicine which allows for the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients using telecommunications technology. For rural communities, telemedicine means reduced time and money spent on care, easier recruitment of professional medical practitioners and most importantly, a significant improvement to the quality of medical care.“Telemedicine is a great tool for both urban and rural healthcare,” says Jessica Gaikowski, communications specialist with Avera eCARE. “As telemedicine becomes more mainstream, people recognize this and want to receive care where they are most comfortable – that’s in their community, in their home.”
Three out of four U.S. hospitals connect and provide care using video or other remote monitoring technologies, according to the American Hospital Association.

“As telemedicine becomes more mainstream, people recognize this and want to receive care where they are most comfortable – that’s in their community, in their home.”
Jessica Gaikowski, Communications Specialist Avera eCare

Hospitals & Telemedicine

Avera eCARE is the world’s leading telehealth provider. Telemedicine professionals provide 24/7/365 care to patients across the country from a virtual hospital hub located on the northeast edge of Sioux Falls.“The comprehensive telemedicine services offered by eCARE in South Dakota include emergency, pharmacy, intensive care unit, senior care, correctional health, school health, behavioral health, hospitalists and specialty clinics,” says Gaikowski.Avera eCARE started providing remote care to rural hospitals within the Avera Health system about 25 years ago. Today eCARE provides innovative telemedicine services to more than 300 Avera locations across South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. They also provide telemedicine services to partners outside the Avera Health system, including other health systems, hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, correctional health facilities and more.

“Telemedicine is the greatest advancement to saving lives and improving outcomes that I’ve seen in my career.”Katie Jane Biggins, Director of Patient Care Services Avera Gregory Hospital

Advanced Fiber ConnectionsTo be successful, advanced fiber connections are required in all locations Avera eCARE serves. Government health-care policies also impact Avera’s ability to provide care. Avera continually addresses these areas through advocacy and partnerships.“We continue to work with the government and partners like Golden West, to advocate for better Medicare reimbursement and connectivity for telemedicine, so providers have greater incentives to offer it,” says Gaikowski. “We do a lot of testifying when these issues come before Congress, trying to help them understand how telemedicine can improve healthcare while saving costs.”In South Dakota, Avera eCARE services 145 facilities in 77 communities. This includes the Golden West communities of Dell Rapids, Freeman, Gregory, Hot Springs, Martin, Murdo, New Underwood, Pine Ridge, Scotland, Springfield and Winner. Let’s look at a couple of them.
Avera Gregory Hospital
At rural Avera Gregory Hospital, Director of Patient Care Services Katie Jane Biggins calls telemedicine “the greatest advancement to saving lives and improving outcomes (at Avera Gregory Hospital) that I’ve seen in my career.”After rolling out eCARE services in 2009, Avera Gregory Hospital patients have experienced firsthand the positive impacts of telemedicine.“Our patients can ‘see’ specialists in infectious disease, pulmonology, cardiology, oncology, and more,” says Biggins. “It saves our patients about six hours on the road. They are always grateful if they don’t have to travel for a 15-30 minute physician visit.”Another benefit of telemedicine to a rural community is the ability to attract and retain medical personnel.“Being a physician or nurse practitioner in a rural community far from higher levels of care can be isolating,” explains Biggins. “Having the telemedicine options that we do (in Gregory), our staff knows they have access to immediate support in emergencies and for critically-ill patients.”

“Because telemedicine supplements the care we provide, we can respond quickly to our patients and reduce costs.”– Karla Carstensen, Director of Patient Care Services Avera Dells Area Hospital

Avera Dells Area Hospital

Avera eCARE has been providing services in Dell Rapids since 2008.“We were the pilot site for their emergency service,” recalls Karla Carstensen, director of patient care services at Avera Dells Area Hospital. “Now, there isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t use telemedicine. These services have become integrated into our workflow.”Telemedicine has improved the quality of care in Dell Rapids, but not by replacing the interactions between providers and patients. Telemedicine supports the face-to-face practice at Avera Dells Area Hospital.“eCARE assists us with documentation, security, emergency response, drug calculations, intubations, traumas and orders,” says Carstensen. “Because telemedicine supplements the care we provide, we can respond quickly to our patients and reduce costs.”


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