Virtual care key to world-class rural care, says Sanford CEO

Sanford Health delivers care across 250,000 square miles with nearly 2/3 of patients living in rural areas

Closeup of a mom finding a virtual care app on her mobile phone next to her child's bed.

Sanford Health President and CEO Bill Gassen joined the American Telemedicine Association and Dedi Gilad, CEO and co-founder of TytoCare, for a discussion about telehealth as a potential solution to many of the challenges and opportunities faced by health systems looking to provide high-quality health care to rural and underserved communities.

“A large contingency of the 1.5 million patients come to us from rural communities,” Bill Gassen said, defining rural community as a population of 50,000 or fewer. “It makes up a big part of what we do at Sanford Health. It’s part of our mission and at the core of what we do.”

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Sanford announced its landmark $350 million virtual care initiative in 2021 to transform health care for rural and underserved communities across the Midwest by improving access to convenient, high-quality health care.

Virtual care serves a significant need and purpose as Sanford Health delivers care across 250,000 square miles with nearly two-thirds of patients living in rural areas. Five out of the top 25 poorest counties in the U.S. are also located within Sanford Health communities.

With virtual care, Sanford Health hopes to address:

  • Sustainability amid rising costs of delivering care
  • Infrastructure limitations, such as challenges with connectivity and broadband internet access in many rural areas
  • Health workforce challenges
  • Health equity and access to care

With the onset of the pandemic, Sanford Health deployed additional virtual options for patient care in areas such as endocrinology, pediatrics, OB/GYN, and behavioral health.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Gassen said. “We will do everything we can to meet those needs and not allow the ZIP code to limit the kind of care patients receive.”

Read more: New gift to Sanford Health will fund virtual care center

The groundbreaking of a flagship facility, the Sanford Virtual Care Center, will take place this summer near the grounds of the Sanford Sports Complex in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The state-of-the-art building will serve people from across Sanford Health’s network of hospitals and clinics as well as house innovation, education and research initiatives to advance digital health care solutions for the future.

“What excites me the most is that today, we bring more world-class care to patients than we did yesterday,” Gassen added. “We’ll work toward bringing that lifesaving care to those who need it. If they don’t have access to that care today, we want to make certain we work to provide that for them tomorrow.”

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Posted In Here for all. Here for good., Leadership in Health Care, Rural Health, Virtual Care