Patient-Driven Care During the Pandemic
Broadband Allows Winner Hospital To Expand Telemedicine Offerings
COVID-19 has posed a challenge to healthcare systems in South Dakota and across the country, but the Winner area has weathered the storm with care from Winner Regional Hospital.
The facility, located in south-central South Dakota, has managed to keep its doors safely open for patients in need of clinical, long-term, and hospital care throughout the pandemic. Chief Nursing Officer Julie Hennebold attributes this success to the efforts of staff members who implemented extra screening precautions and cleaning measures in March 2020, when coronavirus restrictions were just starting to go into effect.
Taking such a proactive approach aligns with the mission of the hospital. “We are totally patient-driven,” Julie explains — a sentiment echoed by others at Winner Regional Hospital.
Serving Rural Communities
Director of Communications Leigha Dempsey says because they cater to a largely rural population, the focus has always been on the patient.
“We like to provide convenience to our patients and try the best we can to find that specialist through our system, so they don’t have to drive so far,” she says. “We’re so focused and centered on our patients, we give them peace of mind whether they come into the clinic or use telehealth. We are being very diligent.”
Registered Nurse and Outpatient Nurse Supervisor Linda Schueth says that while Winner Regional Health physicians naturally prefer face-to-face interactions with patients, they understand that COVID-19 has changed many aspects of healthcare. They remain committed to providing a quality experience regardless, and outpatient virtual visits have been well received as follow ups to the initial physician-to-patient consultations.
The healthcare system has offered telemedicine options for the past 10 years through a referral arrangement with several healthcare networks. During the pandemic, outpatient telemedicine options have increased, and more patients are taking advantage of them.
Technology & Medicine
New digital platforms for online appointments are another pandemic-driven addition. Director of Clinical Operations Nikki Olson says user platforms have been dependent upon patients’ comfort levels, devices, and home broadband systems. Live video conferencing is now available through Zoom, Google Duo, and Skype.
May 11, 2020, marked a milestone when Winner Regional Health initiated its very first telemedicine visits directly into patients’ homes, an option made available once the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began to support them. COVID-19 prompted the clinic to offer in-home televisits for non-urgent, non-emergent, and non-acute situations, especially for the most vulnerable patients: infants and the elderly.
Hennebold says broadband access is critical to offering telemedicine in a rural setting and is instrumental in providing essential support to the overall telehealth process.
“We want to extend our appreciation from Winner Regional and our community to Golden West Telecommunications, because we really need this technology in the rural clinic, hospital, and outpatient areas,” she says.