When Avera Health, Sioux Falls, S.D., launched one of the nation’s first telehealth businesses in 1993, it was hard to envision just how ubiquitous virtual care would become.
Now, with virtual care services rapidly expanding and investments in telehealth companies soaring, Avera is selling its clinician-to-clinician telehealth business Avera eCare for an undisclosed sum to Aquiline Capital Partners, a private-equity firm. The business, which includes 230 employees delivering care to more than 600 sites across 32 states, will be renamed Avel eCare. Its new owners plan to expand the scope of services and conduct more rural outreach.
But Avera, whose footprint includes 35 hospitals in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, is far from being done with making an imprint on virtual care. Virtual urgent care and specialty consultations will remain with Avera. The health system also will continue to be an innovator in the virtual care field and maintain a relationship with Avel eCare as a recipient of its services, Bob Sutton, Avera Health’s CEO, said in a statement.
That would be in keeping with Avera Health’s position as a pioneer in the telehealth field. In 2003, the health system began offering tele-ICU services, the first rural 24-hour, on-demand service to allow staff at partner facilities virtual access for immediate assistance from board-certified intensivists.
Over the years, Avera built a solid reputation nationally for its connected health platform, which offers behavioral health, emergency care, hospitalists, intensive care and pharmacy services to hospitals, correctional facilities, schools and specialty clinics. The organization also launched the American Board of Telehealth last year to address the growing need for telehealth education and standards.