Avera Medical Minute: Med students put telemedicine into practice

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Avera e-Care services have been bridging the gap between specialists and rural physicians for 26 years.

Not only is the staff focused on providing service throughout the country, but they also focus on educating future doctors, as well.

Several University of South Dakota first-year medical students were in a small classroom, but the class expanded much further due in part to one small device - a camera. Each student received hands-on training that day from a variety of e-Care services from e-ICU to e-Senior Care.

"Today is a great experience, we take the entire first-year class of USD School of Medicine, and they come out here, and we're able to show them kind of what is coming into the future of medicine," Dr. Kelly Rhone, Avera e-Care Outreach and Innovation medical director, said.

"It's been an unbelievable experience out here," Colby Felts, first-year University of South Dakota student, said. "We got to really see, kind of, what they offer in the telemedicine."

Using video chat can shorten the distance between patients and physicians. Many universities across the country are taking notice of the ever-evolving benefits of using technology in medicine.

"Medical schools all over the United States are putting telehealth as part of their curriculum they want this," Dr. Rhone said. "And we're so lucky here in South Dakota that we have such a big telehealth presence."

By taking this class, USD students are put into real-life situations on either side of the camera whether they are practicing as the specialist giving the instructions or the rural hospital receiving the information and putting it in to practice. The goal of Avera e-Care has always been keeping patients comfortable, and that can mean keeping them close to their hometowns and community.

"I think it provides a way to get health care to a lot of different people," Felts said. "When people are sick they are at their most vulnerable; they like to be in areas they are comfortable in. Having a way that we can connect with patients over distance and using technologies is always a positive."

Avera has more than 300 e-Care sites across the Midwest and states, some as far away as Texas.

For more information, you can visit avera.org.