Avera Medical Minute: Providing the best possible care through technology in rural areas

GETTYSBURG, S.D. - Technology has changed the way we do so many things. It's even made it better for Avera's medical staff in rural South Dakota.

Jaymi Langer lives in Gettysburg with her husband. They have two boys. Ezra is the youngest at 3 years old, and Jaymi calls him her "wild child."

"He likes to be independent, and he likes cars and to wrestle, and he loves his older brother," Langer said.

He gets febrile seizures. His first was in July of 2017.

"He didn't really have any life behind his eyes. We didn't really know what was going on. It was really scary. There's a lot that we're grateful for, for being in a small town. But we've never really had to utilize any of our emergency services that we have here in town," she said.

That was until the day an ambulance brought Ezra in to the hospital in Gettysburg.

"The first dose that they had tried to get him to stop seizing didn't really work, and since he was only about a year and a half at the time, his weight and the length of the seizure was a concern," Langer said.

So nurses used eCARE services to connect to someone in Sioux Falls to get a second opinion.

"Even if you're working in a bigger place, there are often more than one physician on site, and so one will consult with the other in person," Dr. Chad Carda said, who is an emergency physician at the Gettysburg Hospital. "And so this is kind of like having that where you can just call them up."

eCARE services are available for staff at Gettysburg Hospital 24-7.

"I didn't know they could do that," Langer said.

"The way it used to be done is we would make a call and say this is what I have. This is my question. But it's not so easy for the specialist or the emergency physician on the other end to kind of understand what's going on. Much easier for them to look at the patient," Dr. Carda said.

Ultimately, the decision was made to fly Ezra from Gettysburg to Avera in Sioux Falls, where they were able to find out what caused the seizure.

"It's just the temperature change, so he laid down and had no fever, but he woke up with 102 degree fever, and his body just couldn't process in that short amount of time," Langer said.

This happened again in February of 2018. Jaymi and her husband were able to get the seizure under control at home but brought Ezra in to the Gettysburg Hospital to make sure he was okay. The staff called eCARE services in Sioux Falls again.

"It makes the patient feel better because they know that there's more than one person making this decision," Dr. Carda said.

And this time, Ezra was able to stay in Gettysburg.

"So that really helps to keep patients from taking unnecessary trips and being out of town and having family have to travel," he said.

And it's all thanks to technology. Dr. Carda said the computer systems are all connected as well, so doctors in Sioux Falls can easily see patient's information if necessary. That includes scans like x-rays.