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Avera lands Medicare long-term care grant

A federal Medicare grant to the Avera system will provide better care to residents in long-term care, officials said Friday.

The $8.8 million Health Care Innovation award from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Center will use telemedicine to provide primary care to residents of 30 facilities, including Mitchell’s Brady Health and Rehab facility, which served as a pilot site for the program.

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“The grant will fund a new virtual care center model for Avera in conjunction with the Good Samaritan Society to improve the delivery of long-term care and reduce costs,” said Tom Clark, Avera Queen of Peace regional president and CEO. “The establishment of eLTC at Avera Brady Health and Rehab is expected to improve the quality of life for our residents. We are extremely grateful to receive a grant that recognizes and supports innovation for our seniors.”

A specially trained team of geriatric specialists will work from a hub in Sioux Falls and visit with long-term care residents and local health care providers via a computer network.

The “virtual care team” will offer daily rounds, comprehensive geriatric assessments and urgent care visits to residents, meeting health needs in a timely manner, according to a press release from U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson’s office announcing the grant.

The grant will allow residents in long term care facilities to have real-time access to a provider without leaving the comfort of their long-term care home, officials said.

U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said the grant is part of Obamacare, officially named the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“This grant is projected to save $27 million over the next three years and improve care for over 7,000 elderly South Dakotans,” Johnson said.

Avera Brady was one of four long-term care centers in South Dakota to serve as a pilot site for the program, know as eLTC.

“We foresee the service as very effectively helping to reduce the number of ambulance trips to the emergency room and decreasing hospitalizations,” said Veronnica Smith, Avera Brady Health and Rehab administrator.

“For our residents, it will be a welcome relief to know they have access to a team of providers with geriatric expertise without having to leave Avera Brady and our staff welcomes this innovation.”