Midwest winters have a history of making even the bravest drivers think twice about hitting the roads. But a little snow doesn't mean folks in rural communities have to miss out on face-to-face consultations with dietitians here in Sioux Falls.
"People don't realize they can come to their local clinic and be seen by a dietitian, they don't even think of that we want people to know that that is available to them." Said registered dietitian Mary Beth Russell.
The outpatient video e-consults are funded by a rural health grant through Avera Health and connects dietitians at the Avera Heart Hospital with patients in 6 rural area clinics. Nurse Jennifer Finley says the service has gotten rave reviews from patients in Pierre.
"When they are referred we have a stethoscope and a camera and equipment so the doctor in Sioux Falls can hear lung sounds and heart sounds as if they were here in the room with them." Said Finley.
The eConsultations can be used for a variety of patients but the most common are those who have had heart disease and need a little help with their diet.
"Changing your eating habits and lifestyle habits is one of the biggest challenges for all of us and if you have someone who you wouldn't have access to normally who is now available in your local community to see on a regular basis for the ongoing support that makes it very beneficial to them." Said Russell.
One of e-consult's success stories is Chris Fees from Chamberlain.
"I'm very appreciative to have the extra support. It's really wonderful for me at a time when I really needed it." Said Fees.
Chris had a stent placed in one of her clogged coronary arteries in the cath lab at the Avera Heart Hospital. She followed up with 6 weeks of cardiac rehab and during all of that she also found out she has type 2 diabetes. Chris knew she had a lot of changes to make, but having the extra support from dietitian Nikki Ver Steeg, helped put everything into perspective.
"Everyday is a challenge. Some days I win, someday's I don't but I keep trying." Said Fees.
"We want to make sure that they're comfortable talking to us about things and knowing that we have that science background and can really help them with not only what to eat but why they should be eating it." Said Russell.
eConsults have already helped hundreds of patients live healthier lives without having to venture far from their homes and you could be next. It's a free service thanks to grant funding and is looking to expand in the future. So whether you live in Chamberlain or Pierre when the snow starts a falling, your dietitian can still come a calling.
Right now the six sites for eConsults are Chamberlain, Gregory, Marshall, Pierre, Parkston and Tyndall. But again Avera Health is hoping to expand. For more information about nutrition eConsults just call 877-AT-AVERA.