Sioux Falls, SD, May 03, 2012 -- As USDA celebrates its 150 year anniversary this month; we remember many milestones such as the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) establishment in 1935. In the 1930’s, only about 10% of rural folks had electricity while people living in town had 90% coverage across the nation. Private utility companies felt that it was too expensive to build the infrastructure to rural farmers. With the assistance of REA funding, by 1942, nearly 50% of US farms had electricity, and by 1952 almost all US farms had electricity.
Fast forward and once again it is the USDA Rural Utilities Service, formerly REA that is pioneering innovative ways of service and infrastructure development for the rural areas of the nation. A recent tour of Avera Health, headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, showed that a USDA Rural Utilities Service’s (RUS) Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program grantee is meeting the health care needs of rural South Dakota through telemedicine.
Avera’s eCARE services provide rural patients 24-hour access to specialty care physicians and pharmacies through advanced information and communication technologies. The eEmergency, eICU, ePharmacy, and eConsult services were highlighted on the tour. For instance, eICU Care links rural intensive care units to an around-the-clock care team to the patient’s bedside every minute of the day. With direct tangible results such as 778 lives saved and a savings of more than $30 million with shorter ICU days stayed, the benefits are great.
The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program (DLT) is designed specifically to meet the educational and health care needs of rural America. Through loans, grants and loan/grant combinations, advanced telecommunications technologies provide enhanced learning and health care opportunities for rural residents.
USDA Rural Development has eight offices in the state serving South Dakotans living in rural areas and communities. Office locations include a state office in Huron, along with area offices in Aberdeen, Mitchell, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Watertown, and Yankton. Contact your local South Dakota USDA Rural Development office or visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov for further information.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $165 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas.