Posted 3/30/11 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
During a medical emergency, time is of the essence, and being the largest county in the state makes getting anywhere fast a challenge in McKenzie County. Which is why telehealth services are a prefect fit for the McKenzie County Healthcare Systems (MCHS).
Thanks to a $860,000 grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, MCHS is adding Avera Health’s eCare services.
Avera Health is a regional health system serving 29 hospitals in South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska. As a part of its rural health care mission, Avera developed the Avera eCare telehealth network to better serve its 24 Critical Access hospitals and rural clinics. In October 2009, Avera eCare launched eEmergency.
eEmergency provides 24-hour telehealth access to board-certified emergency physicians and emergency-trained nurses to assist local providers in treating trauma, heart attack, stroke and other critical conditions. eEmergency allows rural hospitals like MCHS to access immediate specialty support during difficult and multiple emergency cases, initiate diagnostic testing sooner, streamline emergency transfers when needed and keep patients close to home when appropriate.
“eCare is an innovative concept linking two-way audio video equipment in rural hospitals affording access to emergency trained physicians and hospital-based pharmacists at a central hub, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” says Dan Kelly, MCHS CEO. “Through eEmergency, the board certified emergency room physician can provide oversight until the local physician arrives. Our local provider always serves as the ‘captain of the ship’ in that they provide the final determination on the treatment provided. Patients will not receive an additional bill for eEmergency services.”
When a patient is brought into the MCHS Emergency Room, even if a local physician is not immediately available, an eCare physician will be in the room through a two-way interactive video unit. The eCare physician will begin treating the patient immediately and offer assistance once the MCHS physician arrives or for severe cases, the eCare physician or specialist will stay on to consult or assist the MCHS provider.
“The local team can request consults from emergency-trained physicians around the clock,” adds Kelly. “In cases where the patient needs to see a specialist, eCare allows us streamlined access to specialists for better outcomes for patients with trauma, stroke, sepsis, acute MI and other emergency care issues. For some patients this avoids unnecessary transfers to see a specialist, keeping patients close to home.”
Currently, eCare is not functioning in any North Dakota hospital, but along with MCHS, several other hospitals in the state are in the process of implementing the network. However, MCHS is the only hospital in the state that is also implementing ePharmacy.
“ePharmacy provides assistance to our local dedicated pharmacists by providing around-the-clock access to a hospital trained pharmacist,” states Kelly. “ePharmacy will make it possible for every medication order to be reviewed and approved prior to administration to patients. This improves confident and accurate medication administration, which improves patient safety.”
In addition to medication consultations, ePharmacy will electronically dispense medication for each patient.
According to Kelly, eCare is expected to be up and running at the hospital sometime in May with ePharmacy coming online in the next six months.