SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Telehealth has been a useful tool for hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, Senator John Thune joined in on a conversation with Avera eCARE about the use of telehealth
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit South Dakota, some clinics closed down, but that doesn’t mean patients weren’t seeing their doctors.
“We went from under 50 calls a day on virtual to over a thousand. That means patients got to see physicians and many people were very worried. People of chronic disease processes that need to be interacted with on a regular basis,” Deanna Larson, the Chief Executive Officer of Avera eCARE said.
Deanna Larson, the Chief Executive Officer of Avera eCARE said utilizing telehealth not only helped reduce the risk of exposure to patients and health care workers, it also helped reduce the use of Personal Protective Equipment.
Senator John Thune hopes to work with Avera eCARE to see how the use of telehealth could be used beyond the pandemic.
“We’ve looked at trans and utilization and everything else, costs associated with delivering health care through telehealth and we’re getting a really good idea about how this might work on a more permanent basis. Obviously what we’re doing right now is temporary, but what I would like to see is some of the changes to be made to allow Medicare and federal government payment programs to reimburse health care providers for use during the pandemic to be made permanent,” US Senator John Thune (R-SD) said.
Thune said his focus will be to extend waivers already in place to help health care providers.
“Reimbursement is huge in a situation like that because post-COVID waivers, perhaps, reimbursement in the home won’t be available. So then that puts our clinicians in a conundrum about how to really provide that care. So we’ll continue to work with the Senator,” Larson said.
With clinics reopening, patients are encouraged to go in if they are sick, but the process of doing so might look a little different.