IHS Chooses Provider for Telemedicine Services - Diverse Health

Higher Education News and Jobs

IHS Chooses Provider for Telemedicine Services

Email
   
        


by Regina Garcia Cano, Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Indian Health Service has chosen a South Dakota-based health care system to provide telemedicine services to a network of 19 hospitals and clinics across the Great Plains in an effort to bolster the specialty care available to tribal members, some of whom currently have to travel long distances to receive it.

Indian Health Service Principal Deputy Director Mary Smith announced the $6.8 million contract awarded to Avera Health. Its providers will deliver medical services via video and other technology in several specialties, including emergency services, behavioral health, cardiology, wound care and nephrology. The move comes as some of the agency’s hospitals in South Dakota and Nebraska face intense scrutiny over quality-of-care deficiencies and fulfills one of the promises Smith made when she took over the agency in March.

“IHS experience shows that telemedicine is an effective way to increase access to quality health care services in remote, hard-to-reach areas,” Smith said in a statement.

The IHS, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for providing health care services to Native Americans across the country. But some of the agency’s hospitals, particularly those serving tribal members in the Dakotas, Nebraska and Iowa, have long struggled with a shortage of health care providers and substandard care. Access to specialty care is limited, too.

In South Dakota, for example, a cardiology patient in some instances is currently forced to travel more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) for care. And a shortage of providers was among the reasons why the agency decided to close the emergency room of its hospital on South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation from early December until July.

Tribal leaders had repeatedly asked IHS to expand access to specialty care through telemedicine at its remote hospitals. The 19 facilities that will benefit through the contract announced Tuesday serve an estimated 130,000 tribal members.
“It will save money, it will save trips, I’m thinking it will even save lives,” said Willie Bear Shield, chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Health Board. “This is the first time I’ve heard good news on something that we’ve actually wanted to do all this time. They heard us. They listened to us.”

Avera Health currently provides telemedicine services to more than 250 locations in several states. Its expertise has previously been sought by NATO.

Deanna Larson, CEO of Avera eCare, said most of the contract funds will be used to cover the provision of care, as well as the equipment and technology needed to keep the IHS facilities connected to Avera’s network. She said the health system’s goal is to connect the emergency rooms to the network “as quickly as possible.”

Comments

Print Friendly

Related Articles

Poll: Americans Want Bipartisan Healthcare Now that the great Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal and replace debate has seemingly ended in Congress, we’ve seen movement by members of Congress towards a bipartisan approach to healthcare reform, starting with discussions on how to improve the cur...
Oregon Adopts Protections for Abortion, Reproductive Health Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Tuesday signed what activists describe as the most far-reaching law in the land to solidify access to abortion and subsidized birth control, bucking efforts in Washington to limit reproductive health coverage. The Reproducti...
CBO: If Subsidies End, Premiums and Deficit Will Soar WASHINGTON -- Premiums for the most popular health insurance plans would shoot up 20 percent next year and federal budget deficits would increase by $194 billion in the coming decade if President Donald Trump carries out his threat to end certain sub...
Report: VA Office Denies 90% of Gulf War Claims ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Veterans Affairs office in New Mexico during the 2015 fiscal year denied more than 90 percent of benefit claims related to Gulf War illnesses, marking the ninth-lowest approval rating among VA sites nationwide, according to a f...