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South Dakota provides millions of dollars in technology grants to nursing homes

South Dakota provides millions of dollars in technology grants to nursing homes


(South Dakota News Watch) – To the uninitiated, taking a sick nursing home resident to the hospital or emergency room may not seem like a big deal.

But these trips can be tough on older patients and facility staff, who need help hooking and unhooking medical equipment, bundling patients in warm clothing, helping them get into vans with wheelchairs or walkers, and helping nurses load and unhook medical equipment. They often have to endure long wait times to see a doctor or doctor. Medical records are not always accessible.

Josh Hoffmeyer, CEO of Dow Rummel Village, a senior campus in Sioux Falls, said going to the emergency room isn't good for everyone, but it's especially good for seniors. No, he said. If you can avoid having someone go out (for medical care), it makes a huge difference.

The best way to avoid stressful travel and provide more care within a senior living facility is to utilize telehealth services. That's why Hofmeyer and others in South Dakota's long-term care industry are excited about two bills passed in the 2024 legislative session and subsequently signed by Gov. Kristi Noem.

Senate Bill 209 provides $5 million in grants to long-term care facilities to implement or expand telehealth services. The measure would be funded with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, and the grant would be administered by the state Department of Health.

Another bill, Senate Bill 80, would provide $2 million in grants to senior care providers for innovations that can improve quality of life and health outcomes for senior residents and support health care workers. money is provided. The fund would use state general fund money for grants administered by the Department of Human Services. Both measures stem from a summer 2023 legislative study session on the long-term care industry.

Telehealth providers, such as Sioux Falls-based Avel eCare, maintain a steady stream of nurses and doctors who are available on call at any time to provide care through an internet connection and video link. Long-term care residents have access to near-instant medical diagnosis and care at any time, with the assistance of in-room facility staff and healthcare professionals working remotely.

The Dow Ramel campus has been using telemedicine in the skilled nursing building for several years. A new grant program could allow the facility to expand telehealth services to other steps in the continuum of care at the campus, which houses about 315 residents.

When you have a large population here on campus and you're dealing with their various medical needs, there's a lot that you have to deal with. So having this 24/7 access to telemedicine has been really helpful. It was really helpful, Hoffmeyer said. It's the wave of the future.

Innovation grants for home health care

State Sen. Sidney Davis (R-Burbank), the lead sponsor of both health care subsidy bills, said the $2 million pool of innovation grants will help more people stay in nursing homes as they age. He said people may be able to stay in their homes longer instead of moving in. Davis told Newswatch that the innovation grant will help pay for more home monitoring and mobile diagnostic devices that patients can use at home and health care workers can use during home health visits. He said he may have to pay.

She said alternative models of care need to be found to keep patients safe and healthy at home for as long as possible because that's where they want to be. It's better for them and cheaper for the state.

Davis, an anesthesiologist who is also a rancher, said a key element of the Innovation Grant Act is that recipients monitor the effectiveness of new technology and equipment and keep track of what works and what doesn't. It is said that it is mandatory to submit a report to the state.

Perhaps some of these investments are worth continuing or putting more money into in the future based on good results. Alternatively, providers may be able to make their own investments in the future, she says. We complement each other and are able to provide as much flexibility as possible to healthcare providers to best care for older adults.

The field of telemedicine has been growing for decades, but it has made great strides during the COVID-19 pandemic, when in-person medical visits have been drastically reduced.

This artist's rendering shows what the $350 million virtual care center to be built by Sanford Health will look like. The new center is expected to be completed this year in northwest Sioux Falls, South Dakota. (Courtesy of Sanford Health)

South Dakota is a leader in the telehealth industry, having launched Avel eCare in 1993 and significantly expanding its telehealth efforts offered by Sioux Falls-based Sanford Health.

The $350 million virtual care center will include a 60,000-square-foot facility under construction at the Sanford Sports Complex, just west of Sioux Falls Regional Airport.

Visual care is worth a thousand words

In the case of Avel eCare, subscribers install their own Internet connection and are provided with a mobile diagnostic cart with a video screen before paying a pre-arranged subscription fee for the service, which Avel's Senior Care Department said Medical Director Dr. Victoria Walker.

Walker said the subscription allows long-term care facilities to receive diagnosis and treatment plans from Abel's on-call doctors, nurses and pharmacists at any time. The video link also provides Avel practitioners with a patient's current medical record of hospital visits and long-term care facilities.

Walker was recently working as Arvel's on-call doctor when a man in his 60s had suffered a stroke and was admitted to a nursing home where he was being fed through a tube. He was vomiting, in severe discomfort, and potentially in danger. The resident didn't want to go to the hospital, so Walker was able to use Abel's video link to diagnose him as severely dehydrated and in need of fluids, which stabilized him by giving him intravenous fluids and put him back on the feeding tube. can now be used.

Seeing is believing, she said, so being able to talk to someone face-to-face can help you quickly figure out what's needed in a situation and get things moving.

Walker said a new state grant program has enough funding to bring telehealth to more long-term care facilities and patients.

I think it can make a pretty big difference. And once you have that infrastructure in place, she said, it's like greasing the wheels a little bit so that when new gizmos come along, you can take advantage of them. This is a proven approach to providing quality care to seniors, and we've done nothing but make it stronger and better.

Supporting struggling industries

Mark Deak, executive director of the South Dakota Healthcare Association, which represents the state's long-term care industry, said the two sets of grants will provide much-needed support for residents and staff across struggling nursing homes. He said it would be. industry across the state.

Dieck testified before Congress in support of both subsidy programs, saying 17 long-term care facilities in South Dakota have closed over the past five years, largely due to financial difficulties and a lack of workers.

Obviously, long-term care faces incredible challenges, some very unique challenges, he said.

Deak said the state is providing significant support to the industry by raising Medicaid reimbursement rates paid to health care providers by 25% in 2023 and another 4% this year.

Doctors and nurses at the Avel eCare telehealth hub in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, founded and formerly owned by Avera Health, are using technology to connect with emergency room personnel elsewhere. I am. (Courtesy of Avel eCare) Grants can help in rural areas

Dieck said the new telehealth and innovation grants are expected to improve patient care and increase recruitment and retention of certified nursing assistants, who are the backbone of staffing in the long-term care industry.

By providing access to telemedicine and introducing other innovations in senior care, employees will no longer have to worry as much about keeping residents safe and healthy, and will be able to reduce transportation to hospitals and emergency rooms. He said it will reduce stress on employees because they won't have to prepare as many patients. .

The biggest benefit is that it makes it easier to treat residents on-site, which is a huge benefit, Deke said.

Among the innovations being discussed are technologies that can help predict which nursing home patients are prone to falls, detect early signs of septic infections, and help develop nutritional plans for patients. He said there are.

Both grant programs could be particularly beneficial in rural areas of the state.

Deke said rural areas have very unique challenges because of their location when it comes to attracting talent and providing needed services. They do not have access to the medical support available in urban areas.

The combined $7 million in grants won't solve all of the long-term care industry's challenges, but it could provide a boost to facilities that have significant financial hurdles, he said.

Certainly more is better, but I think it's a substantial move in the right direction, Deke said. I think it makes a material difference.

This story was produced by South Dakota News Watch, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization. Read more articles at and sign up for emails every few days to get articles as soon as they're published. Contact Bart Pfankuch at [email protected].




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