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Avera eCARE Celebrates Milestone Anniversaries

Oct 23, 2014 01:52PM ● By MED Magazine

Avera eCARE recently celebrated two milestone anniversaries – the 10th anniversary of the eCARE program and the second anniversary in the specialized eHelm virtual hospital in northeastern Sioux Falls.

Avera eCARE harnesses interactive video and computer technology to extend specialty care from the “virtual hospital” in Sioux Falls throughout a 545,000-square-mile area across eight states. Having impacted more than 210,000 patients, the system has saved an estimated $143 million in health care costs. As an early adopter of telemedicine in the 1990s, Avera has more than 20 years of experience with this technology.

“To our knowledge, no one else in the world is doing what we’re doing in a rural setting,” said Deanna Larson, Senior Vice President of Quality and eCARE, Avera Health.

Avera eCARE has several distinct arms that serve varied needs: eICU, eConsult, eEmergency, ePharmacy, eLTC and eUrgent Care-Correctional Facilities.  Instead of hallways of patient rooms, the virtual hospital is marked by computers with multiple monitors, interactive video cameras, and phones. The staff is made up of emergency medicine physicians, intensivists, pharmacists, advanced practice providers and specialized nurses, as well as a well-rounded support team.

In 2004, Avera implemented Avera eICU – the first eCARE service. eICU connects “wired beds” at outlying facilities to decision-support software and critical care experts at the hub in Sioux Falls. Since its inception, it’s estimated that 1,182 patients that would have been predicted to die by mortality predictions have left the hospital alive. eICU serves 29 sites with 93 “wired beds.”

eConsult was formed out of Avera’s existing telemedicine care, allowing patients to have long-distance, face-to-face visits with specialty providers. Over the past year, 7,900 eConsult visits have saved patients from driving an estimated 2.6 million miles.

ePharmacy and eEmergency were launched in 2008 and 2009, respectively, thanks to grant funding of $11.5 million through the Helmsley Charitable Trust. At the touch of a button, staff at a local emergency room can consult with emergency medicine physicians at eHelm.  eEmergency serves 90 hospitals, providing support for serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke, respiratory distress and traumatic injury.

Through ePharmacy, pharmacists provide medication oversight for new prescriptions, any time of the day or night, taking into account a patient’s medical condition, age, weight and allergies as well as possible drug interactions. ePharmacy, serving 58 sites, has circumvented 22,000 serious safety events and saved $58 million in health care costs.

In 2012, eLTC and eUrgent Care-Correctional Facilities were developed to provide virtual urgent care services to long-term care and prison populations.

“If there could be a physician of every specialty in every location, that would be optimal for the patient. Unfortunately, that’s not reality. The best we can do is to have a virtual physician presence providing the expertise to improve outcomes for the patient. That’s what we’re doing through Avera eCARE,” said Donald Kosiak, MD, Avera eCARE Medical Director.

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