Editor, The Daily Leader:

I'd like to thank Mr. Hunter for his editorial piece on telemedicine in the Dec. 12 Madison Daily Leader. It's great that the VA is finding ways to bring primary health care to Madison. The article draws attention to the important topic of ways to deliver quality health care in rural communities. Telemedicine is an evolving means to do so.

Madison Regional Health System has been facilitating telemedical care for several years as a remote site. Certain specialties are particularly suited for it. At MRHS, telemedicine allows for a valuable service to patients and their primary care providers in the areas of infectious disease, endocrinology, nephrology and even radiology. It is also used as a backup resource for certain emergency and inpatient care.

Not only is it beneficial to the patient, but it supports the work of physicians, advance practice providers and other members of the health care team so that they feel more comfortable practicing in rural communities.

The South Dakota State Medical Association, an organization of physicians devoted to improving the art of medicine and promoting better health for patients, has recognized the important role that telemedicine has for South Dakota's citizens. I chaired the Committee on Telemedicine as we developed definitions and safeguards in regard to health care being provided by this means.

It was important that standards of a solid physician/patient relationship be established. Additionally, we addressed the issues of correct documentation, appropriate credentials and fair payment. We wanted to avoid unsafe practices of getting dubious health care from out-of-state providers.

The culmination of this work resulted in two pieces of legislation, introduced by the SDSMA, being passed into law this year.

It's exciting to see how technology is being used to bring medical expertise to patients rather than making them travel for their care. My 95-year-old father-in-law is pleased that he does not have to drive to Sioux Falls to see his endocrinologist and nephrologist.

It will be exciting to see how this relatively new method to provide health care will expand to meet the needs of rural patients like those in and around Madison.

Dr. Robert Summerer

SDSMA president

Madison, Dec. 18