Telehealth: Using Technology to Improve Health Care (Sen. John Thune)

Representing a rural state in the Senate presents some great opportunities to bring unique issues to the attention of national leaders. 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 all three of our major hospital networks. Additionally, many of the rural health clinics that serve the health care needs of some of the smallest communities in our state also utilize these technologies.

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 across the country. 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 greater access to higher quality care.