Avera eCARE®, the world’s most extensive and diversified virtual care network, is celebrating 25 years of delivering a wide continuum of services to meet varied needs of patients, clinicians and health systems.

Avera eCARE has several distinct areas: ICU, Emergency, Pharmacy, Senior Care, Correctional Health, Specialty Clinic, Behavioral Health, Hospitalist and School Health. Avera eCARE harnesses interactive video and computer monitoring technology to extend specialty care from its eHelm “virtual health center” in Sioux Falls to 400+ sites in 17 states.

“Avera eCARE is transforming rural health care by delivering the right care at the right time, supporting local rural health care staff, improving quality of care, reducing health care costs and improving patient outcomes,” said Deanna Larson, Avera eCARE CEO.

“At Avera eCARE, we save money, we save careers and most importantly—we save lives. We’re working with our partners to address the most pressing challenges in health care,” Larson said.

Throughout its history, eCARE has reached over 1.4 million patients, and the efficiencies of this system have saved an estimated $200 million in health care costs and millions of miles of travel for both physicians and patients.

eCARE saves careers by providing an extra layer of support in rural locations or long-term care centers that can help prevent burnout.

Lives are saved in numerous examples, for example, through immediate assistance in rural emergency rooms at the time of medical crises such as heart attack, stroke or traumatic injury. eCARE Pharmacy helps prevent dangerous medication errors. And since its inception in 2004, eCARE ICU has saved an estimated 1,900 lives.

In 1993, Avera began telemedicine with a pilot project, connecting specialists in the city of Sioux Falls to rural community partner facilities. In 2004, Avera expanded its telemedicine offerings to include eCARE ICU, its first 24-hour, on-demand service that allows staff at partner facilities to connect virtually for immediate assistance from board-certified providers.

Today, Avera eCARE is looked to as a model by national and world organizations, having collaborated with health systems across the country, NATO, U.S. Health and Human Services and the White House. Avera eCARE Emergency serves 13 percent of all critical access hospitals in the United States, bringing lifesaving specialty expertise to the most remote locations.

Avera eCARE has received generous grants from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to expand its network and develop its eHelm “virtual health center” in 2012.  “By staffing our central facility around the clock, our partners and patients benefit from the multidisciplinary collaboration of medical specialists within our telemedicine teams 24/7/365,” Larson said.

Most recently, Avera eCARE received the opportunity through contractual funding from Indian Health Service (IHS) to reach out to American Indian reservation communities with Emergency and Specialty Clinic services that include behavioral health.

“Over the span of 25 years, Avera eCARE has developed an innovative network to meet our unique needs as a health system serving a largely rural population. We continue to expand, forging new partnerships all the time as health systems, hospitals, long-term care centers, clinics and schools learn how an established, experienced telemedicine network can serve their specific needs. To our knowledge, no one else in the world is offering the breadth or depth of services that impact patients and clinicians like we’re doing,” said Larson.

Avera eCARE is among exhibitors at the ATA18 International Conference & Expo April 29 – May 1 in Chicago, which convenes thousands of health care leaders to focus exclusively on telemedicine. This year, ATA celebrates 25 years of success gathering thousands of leaders committed to improving health care delivery. “We are honored to share this 25-year milestone with ATA,” said Larson.