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April 2022

Bamberg County Seniors Complete Digital Inclusion Training – Funding provided through a Spectrum Digital Education Grant

By News



DATE:  April 21, 2021

BAMBERG, SC—Senior citizens aged 60 years and up from Bamberg County recently completed a three-session digital inclusion learning program conducted by Palmetto Care Connections (PCC), a state-wide, non-profit telehealth organization.

The program was part of a $35,000 grant program funded by Spectrum to help seniors who live in rural communities with digital training and a chromebook at no cost as well as assistance with affordable internet service.

“We applaud Palmetto Care Connections for their broadband education initiatives and for helping us support efforts that promote digital literacy in rural South Carolina counties,” said Rahman Khan, Vice President of Community Impact for Charter Communications, Inc., which operates the Spectrum brand of broadband connectivity products. “Through this partnership with Palmetto Care Connections, the Spectrum Digital Education program is able to bring essential resources to those in need, and we look forward to continuing to work with them on this transformative project.”

“Palmetto Care Connections was honored to receive this Spectrum Digital Education Grant to help close the digital divide for senior citizens, especially during times like these, as we work to reduce social isolation and when the need for virtual access to health care providers is so great,” said Kathy Schwarting, Palmetto Care Connections Chief Executive Officer. “With Spectrum’s assistance, PCC is providing hands-on digital training for 100 seniors who live in Bamberg, Oconee, Pickens, Marion and Dillon counties.”

Over the course of three, two-hour classes, participants learn how to send and receive photos and emails, safely search the internet for health information, connect with family and friends using a virtual face-to-face app, play mind-expanding games and connect with their doctor for virtual telehealth appointments.

“I think this training is wonderful for someone my age. I will definitely use telehealth. It will save gas, time and I can speak from the house – that’s exciting! It will be a joy the first time I see my doctor with telehealth,” said participant Marie Stephens.

“This is very good information. I am a disabled veteran. This is one of the best things you could have brought to seniors and those with disabilities like me. I have a phone, but I can see and hear so much better with this computer,” said participant Detra Bruce.

“COVID-19 has created an explosion in telehealth services and uncovered a tremendous need for internet access and digital inclusion in rural areas,” said PCC Chief Executive Officer Kathy Schwarting. “As PCC surveyed rural health care providers, we confirmed that many of the seniors they serve have difficulty using and understanding technology, and many do not have internet access at home. The goal is to connect seniors not only to telehealth, but also to a variety of quality-of-life resources, to combat the social isolation that many seniors have faced during the pandemic.”

“I have learned there’s a whole world to explore. I will enjoy using zoom with my children, grands and great grands, playing games and finding recipes. I have questions for my doctor. When the doctor’s office calls and wants information, now I can fill it out on the chromebook. I plan to wear it out,” said participant Lubertha Brabham.

“I have really enjoyed this. I have learned about email and about how to talk to my doctor without going into the office. I can use zoom with my church, and I can use the internet to order clothes and things for the house. This has been very educational,” said participant Samella Porter.

“I will definitely use zoom to connect with my son and my grands. I will play games like Solitaire and search the internet. I’m not scared to mess with the computer – you have to use it to learn! No dust will get on my chromebook,” said participant Edith Myrick.

“We are grateful to our partners Bamberg County Library for providing a wonderful training space and Bamberg County Office on Aging for assisting with identifying eligible seniors for this program,” said Schwarting.

About Palmetto Care Connections

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 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 healthcare access and delivery for all South Carolinians.

PCC Chief Executive Officer Kathy Schwarting received South Carolina’s 2021 Community Star award presented by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health for her leadership as a champion for rural healthcare and broadband access. The National Cooperative of Health Networks Association named Palmetto Care Connections as the 2021 Outstanding Health Network of the Year.

About Spectrum

Spectrum is a suite of advanced communications services offered by Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHTR), a leading broadband connectivity company and cable operator serving more than 32 million customers in 41 states. Over an advanced communications network, the company offers a full range of state-of-the-art residential and business services including Spectrum Internet®, TV, Mobile and Voice.

For small and medium-sized companies, Spectrum Business® delivers the same suite of broadband products and services coupled with special features and applications to enhance productivity, while for larger businesses and government entities, Spectrum Enterprise provides highly customized, fiber-based solutions. Spectrum Reach® delivers tailored advertising and production for the modern media landscape. The company also distributes award-winning news coverage, sports and high-quality original programming to its customers through Spectrum Networks and Spectrum Originals. More information about Charter can be found at

Increased importance in access to substance use disorder treatment via Telehealth

By News

Source: Center of Connected Health Policy

A focus around accessing substance use disorder (SUD) treatment via telehealth has strengthened during the course of the pandemic both in terms of policy and research. Some of the latest long-term federal policy developments around telehealth have centered around mental health and SUD services. In December 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) which included a change that allowed for the provision of mental health and substance use disorder services in the home without geographic limitations, if the patient had an in-person visit with the telehealth provider within six months prior to the telehealth service taking place. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented that policy in their CY 2022 Telehealth Update to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, however these new policies and in-person visit requirements will not kick in until 151 days post-public health emergency (PHE), according to the latest federal legislation regarding remaining telehealth flexibilities. CMS also implemented some permanent audio-only allowances, stating the likelihood that mental health and SUD treatment provided via technology will continue post-pandemic and concern about cutting off people who receive those services. More information on the 2022 PFS can be found in CCHP’s Fact Sheet on the final rule. In addition, research has continued to increase specific to SUD and recently, a few new studies were released looking at the use and efficacy of telehealth for SUD, modalities most often used and related patient demographics, as well as telehealth impacts on SUD outcomes. Overall, the research shows an increasing importance in access to SUD treatment and an increasing importance of telehealth in ensuring such access.

A study published in the Journal of Rural Mental Health in March looked at services provided by a Pennsylvania federally qualified health center (FQHC) and how ensuring patients maintained consistent access to Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD), formerly referred to as Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), despite losing in-person options during the pandemic was found to be critical. Using chart review and data from both 2019 and 2020, the study sought to compare certain patient populations and calculate retention rates, ultimately finding that telemedicine is efficacious in retaining patients in MOUD with buprenorphine and that the general transition to treatment via telehealth only went well. Based upon the research, the authors suggest telehealth emergency expansions should be maintained post-pandemic.

Another SUD review recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at the efficacy of telehealth for SUDs within the context of 2021 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Defense Guidelines for SUD management. The study found that adding telehealth options to SUD treatment can be beneficial, yet evidence was limited regarding any differences between whether in-person care or telehealth improved abstinence from alcohol or cannabis. Low-strength evidence was found that supports the ability of therapy via telehealth to have similar effects as in-person care in improving abstinences in multiple SUDs however, and that adding text messaging as a part of follow-up care can improve abstinence from alcohol.

As far as demographics, a study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine looked at patient characteristics related to OUD treatment via phone and live video from a SUD treatment site in a nonurban area of New York, finding that nearly 80% of visits were through live video and older patients and those with less education were found to have had more telephone visits. In addition, a KFF study showed that the amount of substance use outpatient visits delivered over telehealth varied by substance use condition. Using patient information from March-August 2021, the study found that nearly 30% of alcohol and opioid-related treatment was provided via telehealth, while 16% of stimulant related visits occurred via telehealth. The study also showed that mental health and substance use visits are growing overall, but especially via telehealth, highlighting that increasing demand and need for such services and the role telehealth can play in increasing that access. The findings showed that rural residents are more likely to use telehealth for mental and substance use disorder visits – 55% in comparison to 35% in urban areas – which the authors suggest shows the impact of provider shortages in rural areas.

Research around telehealth is becoming more prevalent and desirable, especially among policymakers looking at long-term telehealth laws. As more studies continue to be released, it is clear that comparisons between pre-COVID and during-COVID use of telehealth is valuable, as is comparing telehealth impacts across populations and types of treatment. Nevertheless, policymakers looking to utilize such research to justify long-term telehealth policy changes should keep in mind that the ability to generalize and apply specific findings across the healthcare system still likely remains limited until researchers are also able to assess the same expansion impacts in a post-COVID environment.

3 reasons physicians resist telehealth

By News

Source:  Becker’s Hospital Review

By:  Katie Adams, Georgina Gonzalez and Naomi Diaz

Telehealth usage has boomed throughout the pandemic, but many physicians are unsure about its sustainability. Here are three key reasons some physicians are reluctant to adopt the care delivery model.

Payer trouble 

Many states are relaxing COVID-19 restrictions and dropping public health emergency designations, moves that affect payers’ decisions on how to reimburse for telehealth services. Amid these changing policies, many hospitals say their telehealth programs are in limbo.

Physicians believe the biggest barriers to their use of telehealth are payer related, according to survey results released in March by the American Medical Association. The rollback of COVID-19 waivers, the lack of insurer coverage of telehealth services and low reimbursement were the top three obstacles identified in a survey of more than 1,500 physicians.

“Permanence drives behavior,” Randy Davis, CIO at Sterling, Ill.-based CGH Medical Center, told Becker’s in February. “Institutions find it hard to commit resources to ingrain a workflow into the fabric of their organization when they believe the underlying policies and remuneration realities have all the longevity of a snowflake in April.”

Janice Devine, CIO at Greensburg, Pa.-based Excela Health, agreed, saying that rolling back telehealth coverage will have a significant negative effect on telehealth and force health systems to revert to the in-person model.

Tech woes

More than half of physicians said their patient population’s challenges with technology is an obstacle to telehealth, according to the AMA’s March study.

Many physicians are also frustrated with telehealth platforms’ inability to integrate interpreters for non-English-speaking patients and prefer using in-person visits for non-English speakers, according to an October study published in the National Library of Medicine. The study revealed other technology barriers as well, including lack of training on telehealth platforms and difficulty connecting more complex technology to telehealth platforms for non-tech-savvy patients.

Physicians have also expressed frustration about telehealth platforms’ limited interoperability with their hospital’s EHR system. Nearly 60 percent of clinicians said they were not able to access telehealth technology directly through their EHR system in a March 2020 study conducted by the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition.

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