Avera Medical Minute: eCARE a vital lifeline for rural communities

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 4:28 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Many of the faithful in the Gettysburg area know they can rely on Father Jerry Kopel in times of need, but there have been a few times Kopel needed help too. The Avera Missouri River Health Center in Gettysburg was there for his heart problems. Connecting with a cardiologist through eCARE may have saved his life.

“In all the five times have been in, four the times I had that care provided and who is a great reassurance to me,” said Kopel.

The hospital staff and eCARE specialists work seamlessly together.

“You know, and I don’t want to disparage the local care providers, but to have a person who’s an expert in cardiology, assessing your case and giving them directions, is a great comfort and reassurance in terms of the care that you receive,” said Kopel.

It’s been just over seven years that Avera Nurse Practitioner Connie Belford moved to Gettysburg.

“Father Kopel was one of the first people I met when I came to Gettysburg. He’s the local Catholic priest, and he has been one of my patients I’ve had the ability to fly out three times. And he’s still alive because of the care we can get for him, not here in Gettysburg, but at Avera McKennan and North Central heart,” said Belford.

The decision to move here hinged on one important factor.

“One of the reasons I chose Gettysburg over another rural hospital was because they had the accessibility of eCARE, which meant that as a nurse practitioner, I wasn’t out here alone on the prairie, because we’re very remote. But I was always just a touch away or a phone call away from the ER facilities in Sioux Falls,” said Belford.

The eCARE team helps both the patient and caregiver know they’re not alone.

“So immediate, and it’s so personalized because it is, they’re dealing with you and you’re dealing with them,” said Kopel.

In the new hospital building, there are more options to provide eCARE.

“I also have some mobile cameras on mobile carts that we can actually go to the patient’s room...cardiology, nephrology. We have one that we’ve been working with a hepatologist,” said Belford.

The right care at the right time can save a life.

“I really believe that there are people walking the streets of Gettysburg today who are alive, because of that expertise provided from that eCARE source,” said Kopel. “To have that available to us is a great blessing. To have that available to us is a great blessing from the perspective of not only patient but as a pastor, it’s a really wonderful tool.”

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