By Dr. Tyler Price, Medical Director of Emergency at Avel eCare

Emergency medical services (EMS) professionals are among the first people at the scene of a crisis, whether it’s a car accident, a sudden illness at home, or a person in mental health distress. While EMS professionals are experts at assessing patient needs and providing supportive care during transport to a medical facility, they sometimes encounter situations that go beyond their clinical scope.

In these cases, it’s important that EMS personnel have immediate, round-the-clock access to highly experienced nurses and physicians who can provide crucial input and ensure that the person in need is being routed to the appropriate facility.

Telemedicine is the key to enabling these life-saving connections. With an iPad in the ambulance and a direct line to board-certified emergency medicine physicians 24/7/365, EMS professionals can help deliver exactly the right care whenever and wherever it’s needed.

The South Dakota Department of Health has implemented this concept in partnership with Avel eCare, creating a first-of-its-kind program called Telemedicine in Motion. With a $1.7 million investment, the Telemedicine in Motion initiative makes it easier for EMS agencies to provide exceptional emergency care, improving community relationships and potentially boosting staff recruitment and retention rates in a complex and challenging career path.

South Dakota ambulance agencies participating in the program are equipped with a cabin-mounted telehealth tablet, microphones and speakers, as well as antennas and cellular boosters to support strong connectivity in the field. Training on the intuitive setup only takes a few minutes, minimizing user impact.

When responding to a call, EMS crew members can connect by audio, video, or both with Avel eCare nurses and emergency physicians who are familiar with the ambulance’s layout and equipment. The Avel eCare team can also coordinate with the receiving hospital to alert them about the needs of the incoming patient, so they can adequately prepare.

The South Dakota Department of Health has plans to complete phase one of the roll program by the end of May this year and continues to gather insights and feedback from pilot participants. More than 90 percent of ambulance agencies in South Dakota have expressed interest in participating.

We hope to equip all of South Dakota’s EMS services with this technology. Fast access to expert care is critical in emergency medicine. Not having to wait for an on-call physician to make a call back to EMS will be a lifesaver for patients.

This program has already been extremely rewarding both for EMS personnel and agencies, as well as for the telemedicine physicians and nurses who feel like they are helping lift a burden on their friends and colleagues in the EMS field.

Tyler Price, MDMedical Director of Emergency
Avel eCare

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