- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

WAGNER, S.D. (AP) - Doctors across rural America are increasingly seeking help in emergencies from video services that let them connect with hospitals in bigger cities.

Telemedicine systems allow small-town physicians to reach out to more experienced specialists when an urgent case lands in their clinics. The video link allows the two doctors to work together as if they were in the same room.

Although telemedicine has been around for at least two decades, the practice is fast becoming a standard feature in many communities, even as other public services such as police and fire protection decline.

South Dakota-based Avera Health has a telemedicine network that includes 86 hospitals in seven states in the West and Midwest. It expects to have contracts with 100 facilities by the end of the year.

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