Avera eCARE® recently received seven grants – two from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and five from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) totaling over $4.3 million. These grants will be used to offer funding support of additional and updated equipment for eCARE customers.

Avera eCARE often applies for available grant funding to continue to offer the highest quality platform for its services, while off-setting equipment expenses incurred by customers. These specific grants were offered to expand telehealth programs across the country.

Recently, Avera eCARE had the privilege of hosting USDA Deputy Under Secretary Bette Brand and her team. This was an exciting opportunity for eCARE to show how important the USDA-funded telemedicine equipment is and the positive impact it is making on the health of those living in rural communities with populations of 20,000 or less.

Through the USDA’s Distance Learning & Telemedicine (DLT) Grant program, Avera eCARE Emergency will be able to provide rural hospitals with the latest technology. Hospitals use eCARE Emergency for a variety of support functions including complex emergency cases, immediate medical direction, expediting emergency transfers, and completing nursing documentation. During COVID-19, the eCARE support has allowed fewer clinicians to be in the room, or supported rural care teams with respiratory therapy access, intubation and ventilation when needed. Rural Development is one of the most little-known agencies within USDA, but its broad portfolio of programs have been helping rural areas in many unique ways during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Avera eCARE also received federal funding to enhance telehealth support for up to 60 hospitals, many in rural locations, as they deal with challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Avera eCARE is the first site in South Dakota to receive these funds. Funds awarded by the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program are part of over $157 million authorized by the CARES Act.

Grant funding will purchase videoconferencing cameras, microphones, monitors and a specialized phone to initiate a telemedicine encounter simply by pushing a button. It will also purchase video laryngoscopes for sites – a piece of equipment that provides viewing of the larynx while conducting intubation to open the airway.

Participating hospitals, which already have a connection to eCARE Emergency, will be able to add equipment to offer telemedicine consults in another room or at another bed. This includes both Avera and non-Avera sites that use the eCARE Emergency service.