Helmsley trust awards $4.3 million to Avera for telehealth education

Oct. 21, 2019

A first-of-its kind program to offer a national telehealth certificate program and education center will be launched at Avera eCARE thanks to a $4.3 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

The education program will aim to standardize and elevate the quality of care provided through virtual health platforms.

“Many doctors, nurses and other providers who work in telemedicine will tell you that they can do everything via technology that they can do in a clinical setting except for laying hands on the patient. Learning and mastering that technology is not as simple as connecting a doctor with a patient on the other side of a screen,” said Walter Panzirer, a trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

“There are standards of care set in every form of medicine, and telemedicine should be no different. As telemedicine continues to evolve, we feel a sense of responsibility, need and urgency that those standards are set, taught and practiced. Since the standards are already in place in the Avera eCARE system, who better to teach and certify others?”

Physicians, advanced practice providers, medical residents and administrators will be able to earn a certificate in telehealth as a delivery model for health care as well as a specialty certificate for telebehavioral health.

Next steps include establishing a governing board for the creation of the telehealth certificate program, convening a national expert panel to validate the curriculum objectives, as well as the development of a 5,000-square-foot telehealth education center. It will be built next to the eCARE helm at 4500 N. Lewis Ave. and open this winter.

“Virtual health care is health care of the future. Educating health care professionals, including medical residents before they even begin practicing, will help us inform and educate this important audience about the possibilities of telemedicine and set them up for successful adoption of technology,” said Deanna Larson, Avera eCARE CEO. “Providing an educational foundation and validated certificate in telehealth helps the field advance and ensures quality of care in this evolving space.”

Medical faculty from leading academic institutions will partner with Avera to develop the curriculum, she said. It’s expected to be available early next summer.

Once launched, the national certificate program will be housed under an independent accrediting body overseen by a board of telehealth experts.

“Because Avera pioneered much of the success in today’s telemedicine, they have also established themselves as the subject-matter expert,” Panzirer said. “They are uniquely qualified and positioned to be a most effective center for establishing and maintaining guidelines for others who work in telemedicine. The field is expanding rapidly, and we want to make sure it expands appropriately as well for the best interest of the patient.”

As technology has evolved, many programs have been created and labeled “telehealth,” but standards have not existed to ensure high-quality programs, Larson said. The national certificate program aims to change that.

“We’ve proven over 25 years of experience that telehealth saves lives, saves costs and saves careers. We are thrilled to be able to share this wealth of knowledge with present and future medical professionals. The goal is that they will be able to use it as part of their everyday practice and benefit from it, for example, through the collegial support it can provide,” Larson said.

“Our project goal is to establish the gold standard for medical providers delivering telehealth throughout the country by providing high-quality, evidence-based education in the field. We are excited that through this program we’ll be able to move from being a world-leading provider of telehealth to teaching this discipline to a national audience.”

The Helmsley Charitable Trust has been an important partner of Avera and Avera eCARE throughout the past decade, donating almost $50 million to support everything from cancer care in rural communities to helping with equipment for digital mammography and CT scans.

“This is just one of many important projects that Helmsley has supported. They push us to be better, think bigger. We could not do this without them, and so we are very grateful,” Larson said.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust saw the potential of Avera’s telemedicine program a decade ago, Panzirer added.

“And that’s why we have dedicated so many resources over the years to this partnership, and eCARE has become the gold standard for telemedicine across the country,” he said. “As telemedicine continues to become a larger part of the health care landscape, we feel it’s important to make sure that others practicing in the space maintain the same high standards set by Avera.”

When generosity met innovation: Savings lives, changing care for nearly a decade

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Helmsley trust awards $4.3 million to Avera for telehealth education

A first-of-its kind program to offer a national telehealth certificate program and education center will be launched at Avera eCARE thanks to a $4.3 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

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