Noem: Telehealth the prescription for small towns

Advances in South Dakota’s telehealth options were recently touted by U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), who said that telehealth is providing an upgrade to local clinics and narrowing the distance needed to travel for expert care.

“Already today, families can see a doctor by just turning on their phones,” Noem said. “Both Avera and Sanford Health, for instance, offer smartphone apps that let you connect instantly with a physician who can help parents determine how serious that fever is and what can be done about it.

“At the push of a button, your hometown doctor can connect to an experienced emergency physician, an ICU care team, a pharmacist, even specialists in the areas of cardiology or diabetes. Through the use of two-way video feeds – much like you would use FaceTime or Skype – and specialized telehealth instruments, a doctor in Sioux Falls can have access to every bit of data being collected in the exam room.”

Noem said that the ability to contact a specialist is especially important because local physicians might be dealing with something that they do not typically see. Additionally, more health care experts examining a patient ensures the best care possible.

“I had the opportunity to tour Avera’s telehealth headquarters earlier this year,” Noem said. “There were a few dozen computer stations that were staffed by accomplished physicians – many with more than two decades of experience. Each station was lined with four high-definition screens where the specialists could see everything from a patient’s vital stats to a real-time video feed of an operation they were counseling a local physician on. In that room, we saw high-quality health care being delivered across the Midwest to even the smallest of rural clinics. Sanford Health offers many of the same options through a similar program.”

The Sioux Falls Avera site services 235 sites in the Midwest and has assisted approximately 790,000 patients.

“[S]mall health care providers are struggling to stay afloat, making it more difficult to attract families to small towns,” Noem said. “I’m hopeful new technologies can change this, which is why I’ll be fighting to make sure folks in Washington, D.C., understand why that’s so important that we support telehealth programs. It’s worth the investment. After all, telehealth may just be the prescription we need to bridge the gap between rural America and state-of-the-art medical care.”