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Monthly Archives

August 2021

FCC Launches 2nd Round of COVID-19 Telehealth Program With 62 Awards

By News

Source: mHealth Intelligence

By Eric Wicklund

The FCC has announced 62 award winners – one in each state and territory and Washington DC – for the first round of the newly revamped COVID-19 Telehealth Program.

– The Federal Communications Commission has approved 62 projects for funding under the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.

The projects are the first to be approved in the second round of the program, which used up its $200 million budget in 2020 to provide assistance to 539 connected health projects across the country. At the end of last year, Congress added almost $250 million in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 to reboot the effort, alongside pledges from the FCC to make the program more transparent.

Among the new rules: The first round consists of one recipient from each state and territory and the District of Columbia.

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Nemours Survey: Parents Like Telehealth, But More Need to Be Convinced to Use It

By News

Source:  mHealthIntelligence

By Eric Wicklund on

A survey conducted by Nemours Children’s Health and Amwell finds that parents flocked to telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many hope to continue using it, but there are still gaps in their understanding of the value of virtual care.

The pandemic has proven the value of telehealth to parents, according to a recent survey by Nemours Children’s Health. But it has also highlighted the need to continue emphasizing the value of virtual visits to overcome barriers to care and improve health and wellness.

A survey of more than 2,000 adults conducted earlier this year in conjunction with Amwell found that while 35 percent of parents used telehealth prior to the COVID-19 crisis (based on a 2017 survey), that percentage jumped to 77 percent during the pandemic. In addition, almost 80 percent have accessed pediatric telehealth services, compared to 35 percent before the pandemic.

Overall, the survey reports, more than 60 percent of parents want to continue using connected health services after the pandemic – including almost 30 percent of parents who hadn’t used any telehealth in the past.

“While one might expect that factors such as income or access to technology are barriers to telehealth, this survey underscores how telehealth proved to be a viable solution to expanding access and reducing disparities in providing timely care during COVID-19,” R. Lawrence Moss, MD, president and CEO of Nemours Children’s Health System, said in a press release. “Regulations that were eased during the pandemic need to become permanent to support telehealth access for the long-term. Telehealth can be part of building health equity among people experiencing social, economic and family challenges.”

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Pilot Brings Digital Skills Training to South Carolina Seniors

By News

Source: Government Technology

A pilot project led by the South Carolina Department of Aging and Palmetto Care Connections aims to teach seniors the digital skills they need to combat social isolation and access telehealth services.

A project led by the South Carolina Department on Aging (SCDOA) and Palmetto Care Connections (PCC) is looking to reduce the digital divide among seniors by teaching them necessary skills for the digital age — like how to access digital tools, from emails to telehealth.

The COVID-19 pandemic has starkly underscored this technology gap. As more projects aim to teach young people about digital citizenship, older generations have not received the same attention.

“Social isolation has been around for a long time, but COVID brought it to the forefront,” explained Connie Munn, SCDOA’s agency director.

Funded by the Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and SCDOA through the CARES Act, the project will grant a total of 100 tablets to seniors across five counties: Allendale, Barnwell, Clarendon, Lower Richland and Williamsburg.

For the seniors to get the maximum value from the tablets, it was also important to offer them 12 months of free broadband service, explained SCDOA’s senior consultant for outreach and partnership building, Kay Hightower.

The collaborative effort involved many different entities but was led by SCDOA and PCC, explained Hightower. PCC’s CTO Matt Hiatt negotiated a deal on 12 months of Internet service from Verizon. Each county also involved different partners in the effort — from area aging agencies to churches.

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SC House reps look to spend $2.5B in federal pandemic aid

By News

Source: The News & Observer

South Carolina lawmakers are considering all the ways they could spend the $2.5 billion in federal pandemic relief dollars that will soon flow into the state.

A group of House representatives met for the first time Tuesday to learn about how much COVID-19 aid the state is getting and what the money can and can’t be used on. South Carolina senators have formed a separate group to consider how best to use the funds.

We’re not making any decisions today,” said Rep. Bruce Bannister, who chairs the special committee. “This is going to be a fairly in-depth process.”

The relief money comes with some strings: the state can’t put it in pension funds, or use it to offset revenue lost due to a change in tax laws.

But there are many other ways lawmakers can spend the cash, from bolstering water and sewage systems across the state to replacing lost pandemic revenue. The money can also be used to assist households, small businesses and nonprofits, and industries hard-hit by the pandemic such as tourism and hospitality.

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Prisma Health using handheld exam kits to expand telehealth: 4 things to know

By News

Source:  Beckers Hospital Review

By:  Hannah Mitchell

Greenville, S.C.-based Prisma Health and TytoCare are partnering to enable remote medical exams with a handheld exam kit provided to the patient.

Four things to know:

1. Providers will be able to diagnose and treat patients remotely during telehealth visits with TytoCare’s FDA-cleared exam kit, according to an Aug. 17 news release.

2. The kit allows patients to perform heart, ear, throat, lung, heart rate and temperature examinations on themselves. Physicians will be able to guide patients, including patients who are children, through the medical exams.

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Richland County Seniors Complete Digital Literacy Training

By News

Back Row: Paul Dukes, Yolanda Lloyd-Flemming, Mary Etta Washington, Thelma Kelly, Gloria Anderson, Muriel Henderson, Elizabeth Epps, Dorothy Higgins, Robena Young, Ella Ruth Ellison, Veronica Johnson, Betty Jacobs, David Belton
Middle Row: Sallie Cuff, Johnnie Wright, Renetta Davis, Opal Brown, Carrie Ellison, Blondell Brown, Naomi Wilson, Charlotte West, Queen Deveaux
Front: Jessie Sinkler, Linda McCants (not pictured Margaret Burnette)

BAMBERG, SC—Senior citizens aged 60 years and up from Richland County recently completed a four-session digital literacy learning program at Bible Way Church of Atlas Road in Columbia conducted by Palmetto Care Connections (PCC), a state-wide, non-profit telehealth organization.

The program was part of a pilot funded by the Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the S.C. Department on Aging to help 100 seniors who live in rural communities with digital literacy training, a free digital tablet and free cellular service for 12 months.

Director of the Senior Ministry at Bible Way Church and Director of the Alzheimer’s Care Project at the Dream Center Sallie Cuff said, “When I look and see all these seniors, it’s really inspiring. It helps me to realize that without this program most of these people would not be able to connect to the outside, especially after COVID. I see a new life and an awakening. At least five of the participants are 80 years and older – one is 87 – I’m sure they never would have thought they could do what they’ve seen their grandchildren do with tablets. As seniors, we’re not dying – we’re thriving, especially when we’re given the chance to thrive. I am so grateful to Palmetto Care Connections and to Kay Hightower with the Office on Aging for including us.”

Senior citizens completed hands-on training using a digital tablet and learned skills such as how to send and receive photos and emails, connect with family and friends using video, search the internet for information, play mind-stimulating games and connect with their doctor for virtual telehealth appointments. PCC will provide ongoing technical support for the seniors who complete the program.

Class participant Gloria Anderson said, “This class was very informative. I learned about sending emails, taking pictures and how to find photos, change the settings, and how to use Google Classroom. And I learned about You Tube. I’m just fascinated with all this!”

Participant Muriel Henderson, a former teacher and guidance counselor said, “It’s good for brains to keep thinking and learning. It keeps you abreast of new technology and it’s also good because it helps you keep up with grandchildren. My granddaughter is four and she knows more than I do about my phone. We learned about contacting our medical providers so we can do some things from home. Many of us can use this to our advantage so we are not going to the doctor’s office all the time.”

Paul Dukes, Army Veteran and member of the Bible Way Church Senior Enrichment Ministry said, “The biggest thing is not to be afraid of the computer. It’s very easy, simple as one, two, three. You just have to trust the process. This class is very much needed. If you don’t learn technology, you will be left behind. Palmetto Care Connections is doing a great service for seniors in South Carolina and the rural areas.”

“The South Carolina Department on Aging works with a network of regional and local organizations to develop and manage services that help seniors remain independent in their homes and in their communities. SCDOA is pleased to be a part of the PCC Digital Inclusion pilot program focusing on seniors in rural areas in five South Carlina counties,” said Kay Hightower, SCDOA Senior Consultant, Outreach and Partnership Building.

“It is our hope that this pilot program will be a model for one approach to closing the digital divide in South Carolina,” said Kathy Schwarting, CEO of Palmetto Care Connections (PCC). “While PCC’s focus has traditionally been on serving rural health care providers with telehealth, broadband and technology resources, we have learned that patients need help in connecting to their health care providers. Residents of rural areas not only need internet access, they need access that is affordable and they need a device and knowledge to connect to resources for a better quality of life.”

Seniors from Clarendon and Williamsburg counties are slated to complete the digital literacy training next as part of the initial pilot program. PCC plans to expand the training for senior and underserved populations throughout the state.

Established in 2010, PCC is a non-profit organization that provides technology, broadband, and telehealth support services to health care providers in rural and underserved areas in S.C. PCC received the National Cooperative of Health Network Association’s 2021 Outstanding Health Network of the Year award.

PCC co-chairs the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance, along with the Medical University of South Carolina, serving as an advocate for rural providers and partnering with organizations to improve health care access and delivery for all South Carolinians.

Over $13 million awarded to two South Carolina rural districts for broadband expansion

By News

Source:  WLTX

Funds part of USDA’s $167 investment nationwide to connect areas to high-speed internet

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Wednesday that two rural districts in South Carolina will be receiving a total of $13,087,738 in funds to be used to improve access to high-speed internet services.

The funding is part of the USDA’s ReConnect Program investment of $167 million in 12 states to deploy broadband infrastructure in rural areas without sufficient access to high-speed internet.

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New Telehealth Users Expected to Keep Accessing Virtual Care

By News

Stephen Miller, CEBS By Stephen Miller, CEBS August 11, 2021
Source: SHRM
Access to telehealth kept people out of hospital emergency rooms, new research shows. That’s likely to result in lower claims costs for employers.

About 1 in 7 people (14 percent) who used telehealth said they would have sought care in an emergency department or urgent care facility if telehealth had not been available, and more than half of those people had their primary health issue resolved using telehealth, based on responses from 1,776 adults interviewed June 28 to July 18, 2021.

The survey, conducted by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and Social Sciences Research Solutions (SSRS), showed that:

One-third of respondents reported having a telehealth visit for themselves or a dependent last year.

8 in 10 adults said their primary health issue was resolved during their telehealth visit.

The most common purpose for a telehealth visit was a preventive service, prescription refill or routine visit for a chronic illness.

Rural residents said they were more likely to use telehealth for surgical consults than people living in non-rural areas.

The survey also found that more than 9 in 10 adults were satisfied with the quality of their visit and were equally satisfied with both audio and video telehealth visits. Older adults were more likely to use audio-only, telephone services, however.

“New telehealth flexibilities have allowed millions of Americans to access health care from home, and as our survey shows, telehealth has the potential to take non-emergency cases out of the emergency department,” said Marilyn Serafini, BPC health project director.

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New Bill Seeks Nationwide Medicare Coverage for Asynchronous Telehealth Services

By News

By Eric Wicklund

Source: mHealth Intelligence

A Montana Congressman has introduced a bill that would establish Medicare coverage for asynchronous (store-and-forward) telehealth services in all 50 states, expanding the possibilities for a platform that would improve rural access to care.

– A Montana Congressman wants to improve rural healthcare access by ensuring Medicare coverage for asynchronous (store-and-forward) telehealth programs throughout the country.

The Rural Telehealth Expansion Act, introduced last week by US Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), would lend credence to a platform that is growing in popularity, particularly in direct-to-consumer telehealth services. Asynchronous platforms allow the patient and provider to connect on their own time (rather than in real time), sharing images, data and messages in a secure portal.

The modality is especially valuable in rural and remote regions of the country where the broadband connectivity needed to conduct real-time audio-visual telehealth visits is unreliable or non-existent. Some states have moved to cover the modality in recent months, but the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services still limit Medicare coverage to Alaska and Hawaii.

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Zoom launches new telehealth feature for greater accessibility

By News

Source: Becker’s Hospital Review

Patients with Apple devices can now join telehealth appointments in a HIPAA-compliant setting without downloading Zoom’s app, the company said Aug. 9.

The company has added an iOS mobile browser feature to its Zoom for Healthcare platform that allows Apple device users to securely join telehealth appointments directly from their mobile browser. Providers can send patients a Zoom meeting link that launches the meeting in a mobile browser once clicked.

Zoom said the new feature is intended to decrease the amount of time providers and IT professionals spend coaching patients through tech support, allow patients and providers more flexibility in choosing where they conduct telehealth appointments from, and give patients the option of not having to download any software.

The company said it plans to roll out the feature for additional operating systems besides  iOS.

Zoom also announced some upcoming features that will allow providers to further customize their telehealth appointments. Providers will soon be able to send patients a Zoom meeting link by email or text without exposing the contact information of the web scheduler. They will also be able to send chat messages to patients in the virtual waiting room and set a pre-recorded video to play when patients enter it.