The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

June 8, 2014

Rural clinics increasingly turn to telemedicine

(Continued)

WAGNER, S.D. —

Since the first hospitals were connected in 2008, Avera’s system has hosted more than 9,500 video encounters — about 4,000 within the last 12 months.

Not all of the hospitals connected to the network are part of Avera Health, and they must pay for the equipment and a yearly rate for the service.

The operator declined to provide the average cost of the service, citing competitive reasons. But Avera’s senior vice president of quality initiatives, Deanna Larson, said the amount each hospital pays is less than the average salary of an emergency physician, which is about $270,000, according to industry estimates.

North Dakota has 29 facilities connected to the network, the largest number of any state. South Dakota has 23 connections, and Minnesota has 18.

When Soukup arrived at the clinic, nurses and the doctor on call quickly concluded that the 1,400-pound cow had punctured one of his lungs. Within seconds, they connected with the e-Emergency service with the push of a button on a wall.

The Sioux Falls staff guided Soukup’s physician as he made a 1-inch incision between the ribs, pushed a finger through muscles and cleared the way for a tube.

At the same time, nurses in Sioux Falls charted all medications administered to Soukup, allowing the Wagner nurses to keep their hands on the patient instead of jotting down notes. A Sioux Falls physician located a helicopter to pick up the patient and transferred his record to the receiving hospital, expediting the transport and avoiding duplication of tests.

That kind of organization is especially helpful when multiple victims arrive at a rural facility, said Dr. Timothy Taylor, a doctor at a clinic in Spirit Lake, Iowa.

Because the clinic is in an isolated resort area, “we can be overwhelmed in an instant,” Taylor said, explaining that the e-services allow the staff to coordinate patient care with a nurse if Taylor is tied up with another patient.

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