Telehealth extends faith-based care to more people

When Gregory Johnson, M.D., joined the Good Samaritan Society two years ago, the chief medical officer admits he didn’t know a lot about the Society’s humble beginnings.

“I did not know who (August) ‘Dad’ Hoeger was when I started or why his first name was ‘Dad.’ I didn’t know why at National Campus we have a desk and a chair out in the hallway. Those are Dad Hoeger’s,” Dr. Johnson says.

The Rev. August “Dad” Hoeger founded the Society in 1922 in Arthur, North Dakota.

Dr. Johnson walks by that desk, full of the nonprofit’s history, daily. It’s right outside his office, next to the chapel, at the National Campus in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“He (‘Dad’) started out raising some money to help a boy with polio. He was so successful at raising money that there was excess,” Dr. Johnson says.

Using those funds to multiply goodwill is what Dr. Johnson thinks about when the Society’s past and future comes to mind.

'Strong culture of care based on faith'

The Society is quickly approaching 100 years of service.

“What we see still, now that we’re not just in North Dakota — and we have multiple lines of business — is there really is still this strong culture of care based on faith. I think that’s unique,” Dr. Johnson says.

A Christian organization that offers more than just room and board.

“I was a physician in nursing homes and assisted livings for 15 years. What I cannot say that I saw everywhere that I do see at Good Sam, is this strong commitment to caring and in its religious foundation,” Dr. Johnson says.

Telehealth is 'incredible opportunity'

Now more than ever, medical professionals at the Society are providing expert clinical care right at its locations. Dr. Johnson believes those services will expand through deeper integration with Sanford Health.

“Good Sam is very rural. We have about half of our facilities in towns of less than 5,000 people. The incredible opportunity, especially in partnership with Sanford Health, is telehealth,” Dr. Johnson says.

Saving residents from having to leave their homes to receive the care they need.

“There’s just a whole list of things that people are doing now remotely. Like wound care, which may or may not involve a doctor,” Dr. Johnson says. “Consultation with pharmacists, consultation with palliative care, behavioral health services. Bringing big-city expertise to a country nursing home.”

Those advancements get him excited about where the Society is today and how it will grow into the future.

“The distance doesn’t have to be a barrier to world-class care anymore,” Dr. Johnson says. “Providing access to care across many miles without having to have that person transported.”

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