Why Telehealth Certificate Education Matters – A Health Care Leader’s Perspective – Part 1

By Deanna Larson, Chief Executive Officer, Avera eCARE and Founding Board Member of ABT

Growing up on a farm in rural South Dakota, I understood the value of connection with other people and my community. That connection always meant communicating with nearby neighbors, family members and even livestock to know when they required care.

In fact, my great grandmother introduced my family to the importance of caring for others; she practiced midwifery, traveled to farms in rural areas in the state and helped women with their deliveries. Later in her life, she took older individuals into her home and cared for them long before nursing homes existed. Her caregiving increased communication and reduced isolation for many South Dakotans of her era.

Throughout my own nursing and executive management career, I too have experienced the power of connection – with patients and clinicians in rural and urban areas of the United States and underserved communities in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Haiti. No matter where I was, clinicians, patients and their loved ones wanted the highest quality and most accessible care.

The Benefits of Connection for Rural Physicians

It’s easy, but not inevitable, to become isolated as a physician in rural America. When I was Senior Vice President of Quality for Avera, I put 50,000 miles on my car in one year visiting rural communities and evaluating how health care providers measured quality outcomes, a first step in value-based care. I saw how our rural physicians wore every hat in their community hospitals. Trained in family medicine, they treat patients with pediatric, endocrine, cardiac and other specialty medical needs.

They were isolated in their respective clinical practices and lacked the rigor that comes with camaraderie of and insights from their peers. At the same time, I saw that information technology platforms, that is electronic health records, reduced isolation and empowered connection among clinicians in rural America and ultimately, across the globe.

Now, during the pandemic, family medicine practitioners face the daily challenge of treating patients who require specialty care. How can they access other specialty physicians for at least a consultation to develop an actionable treatment plan for that patient three hours away?

Enter telehealth and the American Board of Telehealth Telehealth Certificate Program. Read Part 2 of my post on January 6th, 2021.