Senator John ThuneI truly believe that listening to South Dakotans is one of the most important parts of my job as a United States Senator. Certain things are frequently on the minds of constituents, including improving access to high-quality, affordable health care. At a time when Congress is looking for ways to improve access to affordable health care, expanding access to telehealth technology is a common-sense investment.
Through telehealth, a patient in Platte, South Dakota can visit with his specialist in Sioux Falls through a video screen without traveling two hours for the visit. In South Dakota, telehealth technologies are utilized by our three major hospital networks, Avera, Sanford and Rapid City Regional. Additionally, many of the rural health clinics that serve the healthcare needs of some of the smallest communities in our state also utilize these technologies. These organizations touch more than 40 different communities across the state.
As the Senate recently began work on legislation funding various health and education programs, I was pleased to introduce an amendment that would increase funding for telehealth. The innovations of telehealth include the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, and other health-related services for patients and professionals.
Telehealth is an important development that holds major promise in improving rural health care in South Dakota. When patients have access to the health care they need and do not have to travel long distances unnecessarily, costs are reduced for patients and hospitals. On October 19th, my telehealth amendment was passed by the Senate unanimously, with broad, bi-partisan support.
Providing better health care at a lower cost is a mission that everyone in Congress and the health care field can embrace. I am excited to see technologies develop that have the potential to help rural residents have a greater quality of care. I will continue to work for solutions to high health care costs and technologies to expand access to care for all South Dakotans.