Skip to main content
Monthly Archives

January 2020

120,000 SC homes and business could benefit from rural digital opportunity fund

By News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Up to 120,000 South Carolina homes and businesses could be receiving broadband if the Federal Communications Commission votes to launch the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund on Thursday.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced initial estimates of how many homes and businesses in each state, including 120,000 from the Palmetto State, could benefit from Phase I of the $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

“The digital divide affects many people in many rural communities. I’ve said that the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund would be our boldest step yet to bridge this divide, and today we get a glimpse of the broad impact this investment in rural America would have across the country,” Pai said. “Our staff’s initial estimate shows that in 25 states there would be more than 100,000 locations that would be eligible for Phase I of the Fund, and the benefits would be felt from the Pacific Coast to the Great Plains, and from Appalachia to the Gulf Coast. The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is critical to bridging the digital divide. I hope that my colleagues will join me in voting for it on January 30.”

The funding of broadband for unserved or underserved areas would be divided into two phases. During Phase I, the FCC would target $16 billion to areas that are wholly unserved by such broadband. For Phase II, the FCC would use its new granular broadband mapping approach, called the Digital Opportunity Data Collection, to target unserved households in areas that are partly served by such broadband. Phase II would also include areas that do not receive winning bids in Phase I.


Congress Eyes Broadband Access, Telehealth to Tackle Maternal Mortality

By News

By Eric Wicklund

A group of senators has submitted a bill that proposes to use data mapping to identify rural regions where lack of broadband access and high poor maternal health overlap – and where telehealth could make a difference.

January 08, 2020-A group of lawmakers wants to bring telehealth to bear on the nation’s high maternal mortality rate, with a bill that aims to improve broadband connectivity in rural regions where new and expecting mothers lack access to care.

The Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act (S. 3152), introduced this week by US Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Todd Young (R-IN), would use data mapping to identify regions of the country where high rates of poor maternal health overlap with lack of broadband access. The government would then help to boost broadband resources so that health systems could establish  telehealth programs to improve care.

“In rural areas especially, lack of access to medical services can lead to severe complications and worse outcomes for pregnant women,” Rosen said in a joint press release. “This legislation would work to map out areas with a need for both increased maternal care and access to internet. With this information, we can better target where telemedicine and technology infrastructure improvements can be most effective to improve outcomes for moms, and to save lives.”

“Telehealth technology can help track the health of mothers who don’t have easy access to routine checkups,” Fischer added. “But first, we need to ensure there’s adequate internet connectivity.”

The bill targets a hot-button item that connected health could certainly address.


MUSC Extends Free Telehealth Platform to State Health Plan Members

By News

The Medical University of South Carolina is partnering with the state’s Public Employee Benefit Authority to extend free, non-acute telehealth care to some 550,000 state employees and their dependents.

By Eric Wicklund

January 10, 2020 – Some 550,000 South Carolina state employees and their dependents now have access to free telehealth services under a deal forged with the Medical University of South Carolina.

State officials announced this week that the university’s MUSC Health Virtual Urgent Care platform is now open to members of the South Carolina Public Employee Benefit Authority (PEBA). The virtual care platform, offering care for more than 40 health issues, can be access by on-demand video or phone or through asynchronous (store-and-forward) telehealth channels that include texting and online questionnaires.

“We know how hard it can be to take time away from work to address urgent health issues, and when care is hard to access, takes too long or is too expensive, a patient may wait to address an issue until its much worse or harder to deal with,” Patrick J. Cawley, MD, MUSC Health’s CEO and the university’s Vice President of Health Affairs, said in a press release. “That’s not good for patients, their families, their employers or the long-term health and wellness of our state. I’m very excited that PEBA has partnered with us on improving access to effective and efficient care, and these state employees will, in turn, benefit from the quality, expertise and convenience that comes from being connected to one of only two telehealth centers of excellence in the nation.”

MUSC – one of two designated national Telehealth Centers of Excellence – joins a growing number of health systems and health plans looking to boost connected health adoption by offering free direct-to-consumer telehealth services for non-acute concerns, such as colds, viruses and infections.

The service also targets access barriers, giving state employees the opportunity to access care from the mobile device of their choice and at the time and place of their choosing, rather than going to the doctor’s office, retail health clinic or hospital.

“This new benefit for our state employees and their families brings the doctor straight to your phone, instead of them having to spend the time and money they may not have,” Gov. Henry McMaster said in the press release. “This is another innovative tool to keep people healthy and address health issues earlier than they might otherwise. This means a healthier, more prosperous South Carolina.”


Remote Patient Monitoring, Reimbursement Topped Headlines in 2019

By News

By Samantha McGrail

Top mHealth trends in 2019 included remote patient monitoring, telehealth reimbursement, substance use disorder care, chronic disease management, and direct-to-consumer mHealth technology.

As 2019 comes to an end, healthcare organizations are reflecting on the trends and stories that most influenced their behaviors in the past year. Based on our most clicked stories in 2019, those trends included remote patient monitoring, telehealth reimbursement and coding, behavioral health/substance use disorder care, chronic disease management strategies, and direct-to-consumer mHealth technologies.

In the following article, will break down these trends, as well as the strategies and best practices industry leaders developed in response.

Remote patient monitoring

In 2019, healthcare organizations looked to invest in remote patient monitoring (RPM) solutions to transition to value-based care. Many healthcare leaders expected these solutions to support high-risk chronically ill patients whose conditions are considered unstable and at a risk for hospital admission.

Specifically, 88 percent of providers who were surveyed by health IT thought leaders earlier this year had invested or were evaluating investments in RPM technologies.

RPM solutions have been proven to be clinically effective as an early symptom management tool for chronically ill patients, who represented about 45 percent of the US population according to the survey. These solutions allowed risk-bearing organizations to remotely monitor patients with chronic conditions to help control healthcare costs, improve care quality, and increase access to care for patients in underserved areas.

In addition, these solutions helped manage value-based risk associated with large patient populations with chronic conditions.

“The ability of the device to simultaneously record multiple variables such as heart rate and accelerometer data allowed us to more accurately determine the patient’s state, whether he/ she is active, sedentary, asleep, or not currently using the device,” the researchers reported.

Because remote patient monitoring is becoming more widespread, more healthcare organizations are implementing RPM into their health systems. Recently, Humana announced a partnership with Philips Health to launch a remote member monitoring pilot for certain Medicare Advantage members with severe congestive heart failure (CHF).

“Our goal is to continue to find ways to help our Medicare Advantage members stay longer and safer in their homes,” Susan Diamond, president of Humana’s Home Business segment, said in a press release.


Charleston PA begins mental health practice that lives on internet, sign of times to come

By News

Sherlonda Adkins has opened her own internet-based independent practice, PsychConnect, where she will see patients across the state. Brad Nettles/Staff

With American workers increasingly choosing to work from home, one South Carolina woman is following suit, though in a profession still trying to find its place online.

Sherlonda Adkins, a Charleston-area physician assistant, began a psychiatry practice tailored to exist almost entirely on the internet.

Solutions that allow patients to access health care from the privacy of their homes or just about anywhere else are on the rise. Hospitals are developing ways to connect specialists to other medical centers, schools and patients’ phones. Urgent care visits via a laptop have seen widespread adoption by the likes of pharmacy giants CVS Health and Walgreens. And inmates in South Carolina can see a mental health care provider from inside prison walls.

It’s not just patients whose routine may be changing because of the telehealth trend. For Adkins, having the option on the table also gave her new flexibility in her job.

She graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina’s physician assistant program in 2014 and went to work for a local psychiatry practice. Her patient base began to grow, she said, in part, because of the long wait times for psychiatrists in Charleston. In 2019, she came up with the idea to begin her own practice, called PsychConnect Health, which lives on the web.

“As long as I have internet, I can see patients,” Adkins said.



Pediatric Telehealth Research Supported by Multimillion-Dollar Grant

By News


A group of health care providers including the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) received a $3.6 million grant to support large-scale research for telehealth in pediatric care.

The five-year grant will “support the development of telehealth research efforts, metric development, identification of best practices and the development of collaborative policy and advocacy materials across the country,” MUSC said in a news release.

“One of the key missing ingredients to the advancement of telehealth nationally and at the local and state levels was the lack of quality research on pediatric telehealth,” said Dr. David McSwain, the chief medical information officer at MUSC.