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Pioneering Innovative Health Care Service and Infrastructure for Rural Areas

Posted by USDA Rural Development South Dakota State Director Julie Gross in Rural
Nov 18, 2020
Rachel Sherard on the right provides a tour of the Avera Health facility to USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand
Rachel Sherard on the right provides a tour of the Avera Health facility to USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand on the left.

Rural areas continue to face unique health care challenges. Among them are a lack of infrastructure, long distances to services, and a qualified health care workforce.

To address those issues and reverse this trend, in the eastern corner of South Dakota, a strong telehealth network is consistently working in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to pioneer innovation to provide service and modern infrastructure.

“Through USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants (DLT) program, Avera eCARE Emergency will be able to provide rural hospitals with the latest technology.” Avera eCARE CEO Deanna Larson said. “The grant will purchase videoconferencing cameras, microphones, monitors and specialized phones to initiate a telemedicine encounter simply by the push of a button. We are extremely grateful for organizations that recognize the importance of offering funding support for our rural hospitals to ensure the best quality of care for their patients, especially during this COVID-19 health emergency.”

In fiscal year 2020, USDA’s DLT grant program awarded more than $985,000 to Avera Health to finance telemedicine software and equipment to ensure equitable health care access in sparsely staffed medical facilities in a 66-county area in the Upper Midwest through Avera Health’s Emergency Telemedicine Project.

This project includes communities in rural Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming. It will help improve the quality of life for these communities by providing access to modern specialty health care, including treatment and prevention of opioid misuse.

Since 2003, Avera Health has received nearly $8 million from USDA. These USDA grants have been instrumental to Avera Health in developing and expanding telehealth services cost effectively to the smallest and most underserved hospitals and communities.

In celebration of National Rural Health Day on Thursday, Nov. 19, USDA is highlighting how we are working with rural leaders and our partners to increase access to critical health care across rural America.

Category/Topic: Rural

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