Trending Topics

Avel eCare EMS telemedicine leaders honored with South Dakota Governor’s Award for Heroism

Dr. Katie DeJong and nurse Casie Hunter were among those recognized during the Governor’s State of the State for using Avel’s innovative telemedicine platform to help save the life of a rancher critically injured in a bison attack

Press Release

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Avel eCare board certified emergency physician Dr. Katie DeJong and registered nurse Casie Hunter were among those honored during South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s State of the State address on January 9, 2024. The Avel telemedicine leaders, along with Ed Konechne, an EMT with Kimball, SD Fire and Ambulance, received the Governor’s Award for Heroism after helping to save the life of a rancher who was critically injured in a bison attack. The state’s first-of-its-kind Telemedicine in Motion program helped make the rescue possible.

“We’re using telemedicine to connect physicians, nurses, and paramedics with the EMS personnel that are in the field. We work with our partners at Avel eCare to do it, and there’s nothing else like it in the country,” said South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem as she spoke to legislators during the address. “The effort is an investment in the future of EMS. More importantly, it is saving lives.”

The South Dakota Department of Health partnered with Avel eCare to launch Telemedicine in Motion in late 2022 using $2.7 million in state general funds and federal pandemic relief money. The program equips ambulances with a highly connected telemedicine platform that gives EMTs and paramedics on-demand access to Avel eCare’s experienced emergency physicians, paramedics, and nurses. Over the past year, 92 of South Dakota’s 122 ambulance services have installed the technology, and more plan to do so. Avel’s team has been involved in more than 950 encounters so far.

The life-saving potential of this innovative approach to pre-hospital care was demonstrated early on in the initiative. One of the first significant calls involved a 67-year-old rancher who suffered an unprovoked attack by a 1600-pound bison. His injuries were life-threatening – multiple broken ribs, a broken neck, and a collapsed lung filling with blood. After dragging himself to a front-loader and driving back home for help, he was picked up by Konechne, a volunteer EMT who did not have much experience handling such severe wounds. He used Avel’s EMS telemedicine system to connect with Katie DeJong, an emergency medicine physician at Avel eCare’s telehealth center. During the ambulance ride, Dr. DeJong helped by arranging a helicopter transport and coordinating with the receiving hospital to ensure they were ready (versus having them wait to assess when the patient got there.)

These videos detail the dramatic story from the point of view of the patient and EMT.

“In a trauma situation, the first 30 minutes are the most important. But in some rural communities, the nearest care facility may be an hour or more away,” said Rebecca Vande Kieft, Vice President and General Manager of Emergency and EMS Services for Avel eCare. “EMS telemedicine brings experienced emergency physicians, paramedics and nurses into the back of a moving ambulance to enhance patient care in extreme trauma cases or other complex situations and gives emergency department personnel advanced notice so they are better prepared to treat patients upon their arrival.”

Based on the success of the program in South Dakota, Avel recently expanded its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) telemedicine solution to Minnesota, going live with Murray County Ambulance in September and the State of Nebraska in December. Further expansion into other states is planned for 2024.

“At a time when the rate of EMS professionals is on the decline, and agencies are closing across the country, telemedicine represents a new frontier in prehospital and post-crash care, where technology and expertise blend seamlessly with the existing EMS infrastructure to help improve care and boost the recruitment and retention of the workforce now and into the future,” said Avel eCare CEO Doug Duskin.

For more information, visit:

*High-resolution photos and videos of EMS Telemedicine are available upon request

About Avel eCare

Avel eCare offers the largest and most comprehensive virtual health network in the world, partnering with more than 800 healthcare systems, hospitals, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, schools, and law enforcement agencies across the country.