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Sanford Health Announces Launch of Virtual Care Program, Satellite Clinics

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   August 24, 2022

The South Dakota-based health system has broken gound on a 60,000 square-foot virtual care center, part of a $350 million initiative launched in 2021 to extend telehealth and digital health services across the Upper Midwest. The program will include five 'satellite clinics' located in rural and underserved communities.

Sanford Health is going all-in on telehealth and digital health, with a new virtual care center and five "satellite clinics" aimed at expanding access to care and resources across the Midwest.

The Sioux Falls, SD-based health system, billed as the largest rural health system in the country, covers roughly 250,000 square miles across several states with a network of 47 medical centers, 224 clinics, 158 skilled and nursing rehab facilities and hundreds of other healthcare sites. Officials announced the ground-breaking for the Sanford Virtual Care Center during this week's "Future of Rural Healthcare" conference.

“This flagship center will be the premier training ground to prepare medical students, residents and nurses for the next generation of care delivery,” Brad Schipper, the health system's president of virtual care, said in a press release. “The innovation that takes place in this building will help us deliver on our promise to patients by leveraging the best of technology to provide high-quality, safe care with an emphasis on convenience and affordability.”

The 60,000 square-foot facility, expected to open in 2024, will house clinician workspaces equipped with telemedicine and digital health technology and feature services that include on-demand virtual primary, behavioral health and urgent care. It will also house "innovation, education, and research initiatives to advance digital healthcare and workforce solutions for the future."

The announcement is the latest step in a $350 million virtual care initiative launched in 2021 and aimed at improving access to care for rural and underserved populations, which comprise a considerable part of Sanford Health's coverage area. The program will include the development of five clinics, also equipped with the latest in virtual care technology, in locations where in-person healthcare services "are otherwise unavailable or diminishing."

The program aims to make the Upper Midwest a hotbed for telehealth and digital health innovation and outreach. Avera Health, a multi-state healthcare organization also based in Sioux Falls, launched its own telehealth education center in 2019, alongside a national telehealth certificate program, and then sold its Avera eCare telehealth business last year to a private capital firm, which has renamed the business as Avel eCare.

Another big player in the region is Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, which has an extensive telehealth and digital health network. Sanford Health and Intermountain had discussed joining forces in a merger in 2020, but ended those talks that same year.

Eric Wicklund is the Innovation and Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.


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