Avera Health's telemedicine platform may be going global.
The South Dakota-based health system, long praised for delivering healthcare to remote locations across the Midwest and West, is hosting NATO officials who are looking at different methods for responding to global disasters, ranging from armed conflicts to tsunamis and earthquakes.
"This project is aiming at the creation of the multinational capacity in responding to major situations, disasters (and) civil emergencies, in countries where we would send our teams and they may need to consult experienced physicians at a distance from where they are," Romanian interior ministry official Raed Arafat, the NATO director for the project, told the Associated Press.
Representatives from the United States, United Kingdom, France and Romania, among others, are visiting Avera's telemedicine hub in Sioux Falls and witnessing demonstrations from a wide variety of telemedicine vendors. The visit, which took a year to plan, is being funded by NATO's Science for Peace and Security Program.
"Right now when there's a disaster most countries will send some sort of aid; the United States sends teams, Romania sends teams," Donald Kosiak, the medical director for Avera's telemedicine services, told AP. "What we are trying to say is, when you send those teams, could we embed telemedicine into those teams? Those teams can then use that technology to reach back to not only experts in their own country but experts around the globe."
Kosiak, a frequent mHealth Summit attendee and speaker, oversees a 24-hour eCare network that delivers care to more than 200 sites across several states.
The NATO project seeks to create a multinational telemedicine platform that could be launched during a natural or man-made emergency. Officials hope to test the platform in a drill this September in the Ukraine before launching it in 2016 or 2017.
In an interview with the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Arafat said liability and licensing issues need to be worked out, among other concerns. "But we hope certain issues will be overcome in the future ... without having these barriers between us who want to help and people who need the help," he said.