In a nascent, growing field yet to standardize one generally-accepted standard for accreditation or certification, another player is entering the field. Avera eCare, one of the country’s largest telehealth networks, is developing a national telehealth certification program with a $4.3 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. The program will allow healthcare providers to earn either a general certificate in telehealth as a delivery model or a specialty certificate in telemental health.
The goal of the initiative, as explained by Avera eCare CEO Deanna Larson, is to establish the national gold standard for telemedicine by emphasizing high quality, evidence-based education. As part of the program, Avera will build a 5,000-square-foot telehealth education center in Sioux Falls, SD, expand an earlier partnership with the trust that created a Telebehavioral Certificate for Residents Program, and establish an independent accrediting governing body that oversees physicians, medical residents, advanced practice providers, and administrators.
The new program joins several existing accreditation services, including the American Telemedicine Association-backed ClearHealth Quality Institute (CHQI) and the National Telehealth Centers of Excellence at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), among others.
Since its launch in 2008, the Helmsley Trust has contributed over $400 billion to mHealth and telehealth programs. A study commissioned by the organization found that among the Upper Midwest, 80 percent of donations went to Minnesota, leaving the remainder of the region bereft. When the Helmsley Trust and Avera eCare discovered common goals and visions, the trust decided to boost Avera’s efforts to create a sustainable business model beyond grant funding.
Avera eCare has a history of capturing and testing innovative ideas originating from providers and staff in the trenches; worthy concepts are developed into full-scale programs. Although Avera’s footprint ostensibly remains in South Dakota, the institution has already begun assisting facilities in other states, such as Texas, backed by the joint founders of the Avera health system: the Presentation Sisters and Benedictine Sisters of Yankton, guided by the values of hospitality, compassion, and stewardship. The development of a national-scale accreditation program falls in line with this mission and allows Avera to more efficiently share its influence and expertise across the nation.
To learn more about Avera eCare’s history in becoming the standard for telehealth in the Upper Midwest, visit Argus Leader here.