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Avera to use telemedicine in Sioux Falls schools

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — The Sioux Falls School District says it's teaming up with a local health care provider to allow nurses to diagnose students using the Internet.

School district officials announced this week that they plan to work with Avera Health to create a new telemedicine service for students, the Argus Leader reported. The goal is to improve access to care for young students by using video conferencing. Although the district has a nurse-to-student ratio that exceeds the federal target, the new effort will improve health care for local children, according to Kent Alberty, president of the school board.

"This isn't going to lower that ratio, but, in a way, it is," Alberty said. "It gives us access to the Avera system."

The Avera eCARE School Nurse Pilot will allow a trained school staffer to aid sick or injured students by calling a licensed nurse at Avera. A nurse will be able to examine a rash, calm a student who is suffering from an asthma attack or show a school employee how to check for a broken bone, Senior vice president of eCARE and quality Deanna Larson said.

The pilot program will allow students to have access to the knowledge of trained nurses when there isn't a nurse present in the building. It will allow nurses to make quicker assessments, Larson said.

He hopes to begin providing the full-time nurses, along with the necessary technology, this winter at five or six elementary schools. The district has yet to select the participating schools.

"The schools that will participate in the project will be selected based on student population, the amount and types of nursing tasks that take place in the building and current nurse availability," said Molly Satter, district health services supervisor.

Avera is paying for the eCARE pilot.