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Ramona Midkiff

H. 4159 Passes Legislature, Awaits Governor’s Signature

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Pictured above: Co-Chairman of the SCTA, Kathy Schwarting and Dr. Jimmy McElligott testifying before a subcommittee of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee.

Source: Campbell Mims, Sweatman Strategies

In coordination and collaboration with the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance and other stakeholders,  Palmetto Care Connections (PCC) has actively supported H. 4159: Telehealth and Telemedicine Modernization Act. The bill outlines the following regulatory goals:

  1. Introduce a new definition of “telehealth” which includes all provider types, not only MDs and DOs, who are essential to a patient’s care team in providing increased access to healthcare.
  2. Modernize telehealth prescribing language to ensure SC patients can access life-saving treatment to combat the opioid epidemic in our state while maintaining important safeguards. Prescriptions of Schedule II and III narcotics are not permitted when a physician-patient relationship is established solely via telemedicine except when/for:
    • Patient is in hospital being treated by a practitioner
    • When buprenorphine is prescribed for opioid use disorder
    • End of life care, and
    • Other exceptions authorized by the board

On Jan. 24, 2024, the Senate adopted the Committee amendment of H. 4159, and the bill received a second reading as amended. On Jan. 25, the bill was read a third time and returned to the House with amendments with a roll call of Ayes 41; Nays 0. The House concluded in the Senate amendments on H. 4159. Having received a third reading in both chambers, the bill as amended was enrolled by the house on Wednesday, Jan. 31. The bill now travels to Gov. Henry McMaster’s desk for his signature of approval.


The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) may be ending

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Written by Ashlee Parra, Digital Literacy Program Manager, PCC

Going to school. Doing your job. Making a telehealth appointment.

These tasks have become nearly impossible without the Internet, and the Affordable Connectivity Program has successfully made it more affordable and accessible for 22 million American households to get online. However, funds are quickly running out, threatening to unplug those who need it most from affordable internet access.

Today, 425,446 South Carolina households are enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program. That’s about 1 in 5 households in the state. Palmetto Care Connections supports the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act so South Carolina seniors, veterans, and students of all ages can stay connected.

Palmetto Care Connections Hosts 11th Annual Telehealth Summit to Shape the Future of Healthcare

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Columbia, S.C. (Dec. 7, 2023) – Palmetto Care Connections (PCC), a leading organization dedicated to advancing rural healthcare initiatives, proudly hosted its 11th Annual Telehealth Summit on Dec. 4-6, 2023. The event brought together healthcare professionals, state legislators, technology experts, and more to explore innovations and advancements in telehealth around a two-day summit in Greenville, S.C.

“The 11th Annual Telehealth Summit is a testament to the incredible progress we’ve made in harnessing the power of technology to improve healthcare accessibility. In a rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, this summit provides a crucial forum for stakeholders to come together, share ideas, and explore innovative solutions that will ultimately benefit our communities,” said PCC Chief Executive Officer, Kathy Schwarting.

The summit’s agenda includes topics reflecting the multifaceted impact of telehealth in today’s healthcare environment. These topics include policy updates, telehealth within schools, insights from a legislative panel, and more. Attendees had the opportunity to network with peers, engage in meaningful discussions, and gain valuable insights into the transformative potential of telehealth.

In a commitment to highlight the change agents in telehealth and rural health care access in the Palmetto State, the following individuals and organizations were honored as winners at the Telehealth Awards Ceremony, where state Senate President Thomas Alexander served as master of ceremonies:

  • 2023 State Telehealth Legislative Champion: The Honorable Bill Herbkersman, South Carolina House of Representatives
  • 2023 Telehealth State Champion Award: Dr. Kathyrn King, Medical University of South Carolina
  • 2023 Telehealth Pioneer Award: Dr. Divya Ahuja, Prisma Health
  • 2023 Program of Excellence: S.C. Department of Mental Health Community Telepsychiatry Program
  • 2023 Telehealth Innovator: Dr. Marc Bingham, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System
  • 2023 Digital Health Equity Champion: Kathy Schwarting, Palmetto Care Connections
  • 2023 Dr. Rick Foster Primary Care Telehealth Champion: Posthumously Awarded to Dr. Rick Foster

“This summit is not just an event; it’s a catalyst for change, a platform where ideas converge toward a more accessible, patient-centric, and technologically advanced healthcare field,” said Schwarting.

Palmetto Care Connections is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing telehealth and improving healthcare access in South Carolina. Through innovative solutions and collaborative initiatives, PCC works to bridge gaps in healthcare delivery and promote the well-being of individuals and communities.

Click here to view pictures from the 11th Annual Telehealth Summit of South Carolina.

Rapid telehealth consults found to improve care for rural patients with stroke

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Source: Medical Xpress and by American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)

Minutes matter when a patient may have had a stroke, but being far from a physician with advanced training in neurology no longer needs to be a barrier to rapid diagnosis and intervention.

Telestroke programs are designed to improve access to the limited number of specialists, regardless of the geographic isolation of patients who may have experienced a stroke. Telestroke, or stroke telemedicine, is a form of telehealth in which physicians with advanced training in stroke care use technology to provide immediate consultation to a local health care professional to recommend diagnostic imaging and treatment for patients with stroke at an originating site.

Patients who present within 4.5 hours of when they were last known to be well may be eligible for thrombolytic drug therapy or endovascular intervention, often measured as door-to-needle time.

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Without a hospital, Marlboro County SC turns to EMS and telehealth

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Source: Post and Courier

BENNETTSVILLE — When Jaheem McLaurin’s grandmother had a stroke in 2016 there was no hospital to rush her to in Marlboro County.

Marlboro Park Hospital had accepted its last patients on April 15, 2015, and closed its doors two weeks afterward. A year later, when Linda Platt became ill, the best shot at saving her life was a hospital 35 minutes away.

During that drive, heavy thoughts raced through McLaurin’s mind.
“If we would have had some sort of health care access, whether that was an emergency room or a hospital, my grandmother could have gotten high quality health care quicker and any side effects could have been reversed sooner,” he said.

McLaurin’s grandmother ultimately survived, but the issues the family faced in light of the hospital’s closure were not unique to Marlboro County. Since 2005, 199 rural hospitals have closed or converted to limited services across the country, including four in rural parts of South Carolina: Fairfield, Bamberg, Marlboro and Barnwell counties, according to research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Some of these providers closed as patients moved away or sought care elsewhere. Others struggle to negotiate rates and serve patients who are older and sicker.

Bennettsville is located in South Carolina’s Pee Dee region, about a 44-minute drive from the nearest urban center of Florence. Residents there and in surrounding Marlboro County face many health challenges and high rates of chronic illness, from obesity to diabetes.

Marlboro County’s average household income of $31,528 is much lower than state and national averages. Black residents, who make up over 69 percent of the population, are much more likely to live in poverty than their White counterparts. They also face staggering health disparities, making them more prone to diseases like cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

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Costco Offers Members $29 Online Health Care Visits

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Source: Bloomberg

Costco Wholesale Corp. will offer members access to medical care through a deal with online marketplace Sesame, as the retail giant joins peers by pushing deeper into health care.

Costco’s members will be eligible for Sesame’s “best pricing,” including online primary care visits for $29, Sesame said. They’ll also get mental health visits for $79 and 10% off other services. On the platform, clinicians set their prices and patients pay them directly, not through insurance.

Sesame aims “to provide great health care to the value-conscious,” said David Goldhill, the startup’s chief executive officer.

The companies didn’t disclose financial terms, but the agreement benefits both sides. Costco, which declined an interview request, will add to members’ benefits. And Sesame, a New York-based startup that’s backed by Alphabet Inc.’s venture unit, gets its marketplace in front of a vast pool of potential customers; Costco has about 125 million cardholders worldwide, and generates roughly 70% of sales in the US.

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PCC, Marion County Library System Announce Launch of Telehealth Services

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Pictured L to R: Mayor Lawson Battle, City of Nichols, Kathy Schwarting, CEO, Palmetto Care Connections, Patti Burns, Director, Marion County Library System and SC Senator Kent Williams

Nichols Branch Library To Become Ninth Provider Location in Marion County

NICHOLS, S.C. (Sept. 21, 2023) – Palmetto Care Connections (PCC), a non-profit telehealth network serving rural and underserved communities across South Carolina, and the Marion County Library System celebrated the launch of telehealth services in the Town of Nichols, a rural community in Marion County.

Under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Kathy Schwarting, MHA, a full staff and a board of directors including health care leaders from across the state, PCC will ensure telehealth integration in the Nichols Branch Library by providing resources on telehealth platforms, reimbursement, policies and procedures, and telehealth certification. The launch of the services was announced during a premier event hosted by Palmetto Care Connections and the Marion County Library System at the Nichols Branch Library.

“We must continue to push the needle across rural South Carolina to ensure these communities have access to the highest levels of care,” said Schwarting. “In coordination with the Marion County Library System and Mayor Lawson Battle of Nichols, we are providing access and equity to this underserved community. I am thrilled for PCC to be a small piece of the puzzle toward a higher quality of life for the citizens of Nichols.”

The Marion County Library is a county-wide system serving a population of 35,466 through the Marion headquarters library, branches in Mullins and Nichols, and a bookmobile. The library system is affiliated with county government and the Marion County Library Board of Trustees is comprised of 7 members, each representing a County Council district. The Marion County Library System connects people, information, and ideas to encourage life-long literacy, learning, and leisure pursuits for a thriving community.

“In a rural community like Nichols, access to primary healthcare could not be more paramount,” said S.C. Sen. Kent Williams, who represents Nichols in the state Senate. “I am proud of the partnership that has emerged between the Marion County Library System and Palmetto Care Connections. With the help of these organizations, the Town of Nichols is putting its residents needs first, while being at the forefront of healthcare innovation.”

The Nichols Branch Library launch comes on the heels of Telehealth Week in South Carolina and will not be PCC’s first foray in Marion County. With nine existing locations outfitted with PCC’s telehealth services, including the Marion County Library, the county is being provided the highest quality of service.

“Since 1970, the Marion County Library System has found itself at the forefront of service to the Nichols community,” said Patti Burns, library director. “This announcement is one more example of that longstanding service. Working with PCC and the leadership of the Town of Nichols, like Mayor Battle, the vibrant community will be supported with vital healthcare resources for years to come.”

=Established in 2010, Palmetto Care Connections (PCC) is a non-profit organization that brings technology, broadband, and telehealth solutions to health care providers in rural and underserved areas in South Carolina. PCC hosts the Annual Telehealth Summit of South Carolina presenting state and national best practices and trends, as well as providing networking connections for health care, technology and broadband professionals.



PCC, Department on Aging Announce Statewide Expansion of Telehealth

By News



Pictured (L to R): Kathy Schwarting, CEO, PCC and Connie Munn, Director, SCDOA

Photo Credit: SC Department on Aging

PCC, Department on Aging Announce Statewide Expansion of Telehealth
Up To 18 Health Offices To Be Assessed For Innovative Telehealth Carts

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Palmetto Care Connections (PCC), a non-profit telehealth network serving
rural and underserved communities across South Carolina, and the South Carolina Department
on Aging (SCDOA) today celebrated the ceremonial signing of a Memorandum of Agreement
expanding access to telehealth care for thousands of South Carolinians.

Led by Chief Executive Officer Kathy Schwarting, MHA, a full staff and a board of directors
including health care leaders from across the state, PCC will conduct site assessments at up to
18 rural senior centers to determine each office’s telehealth readiness and broadband
capabilities. Each office will then receive a telehealth cart for area seniors to use for telehealth
visits. The carts, provided by PCC for deployment, would be available for those who may
otherwise not have adequate access to health care.

“The people of our state deserve access to the highest quality health care,” said Schwarting.
“Collaborating with Director Connie Munn and her impressive team at SCDOA we have done
great work and made significant progress toward putting telehealth carts in offices across South
Carolina. Once we have these telehealth carts in place, the underserved and vulnerable among
us will be able to benefit from broad scope of health services, which they need and deserve. We
thank members of the General Assembly and the entire team at Aging for working so well with
us to make this next step a reality.”

“With our growing older population in South Carolina, at the Department on Aging, our focus is
to ensure that our older adults have a place to live, have quality of life, and can age with dignity
and respect,” Munn said. “We are grateful for the partnership with Palmetto Care Connections
that will improve access to healthcare which is vital to the quality of life for our older adults.
These telehealth carts will be able to provide a critical role in the wellness of older adults. This
would not be possible without the support from Kathy Schwarting and her dedicated team, and
the members of the General Assembly to help provide our aging population this invaluable
resource to healthcare.”

Once offices are identified as suitable for telehealth carts and PCC and SCDOA have placed
carts at the locations, PCC will train staff members to assist their seniors in successfully
completing a telehealth visit, and share online educational offerings to staff members at each
location. Additionally, PCC will provide ongoing support for each telehealth cart and help
promote the new telehealth service.

Pictured (L to R): SC Representative Mark Smith, Kathy Schwarting, CEO, PCC, Connie Munn, Director, SCDOA, and Matt Hiatt, Chief Technology Officer, PCC

SCDOA’s mission is to meet the present and future needs of seniors, and to enhance their
quality of life in South Carolina. Through a network of regional Area Agencies on Aging and
local organizations SCDOA develops and manages services that help seniors remain
independent in their homes and communities.

Established in 2010, Palmetto Care Connections (PCC) is a non-profit organization that brings
technology, broadband, and telehealth solutions to health care providers in rural and
underserved areas in South Carolina. PCC hosts the Annual Telehealth Summit of South
Carolina presenting state and national best practices and trends, as well as providing
networking connections for health care, technology and broadband professionals.

The leader of the South Carolina broadband consortium, PCC assists health care providers in
receiving broadband savings through the Federal Communication Commission’s Healthcare
Connect Fund program. Since 2013, PCC has helped providers save more than $30 million in
broadband costs.

Bamberg County welcomes broadband grant with open arms

By News


By Taylor Martin


BAMBERG, S.C (WRDW/WAGT) – On Wednesday, leaders in South Carolina announced a life-changing grant to bring broadband internet to one of our rural counties.

In August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced nearly $700 million in grants and loans to connect thousands of people in rural areas to high-speed internet.

It’s due to the ReConnect Program, which is part of President Joe Biden’s Investing in America agenda.

Both Bamberg County and Orangeburg County are getting $12 million each.

The $24 million high-speed internet investment will bring affordable and reliable internet access to people who live in both counties.

Leaders involved in the project say these funds will be a great help for schools in the area.

“I had citizens come up to me today and say, ‘Hey we don’t have internet at all – we have no broadband. And they’re in the service area and they can’t get it from anyone, from any other service providers. So, this is going to be life-changing for several,” said Bamberg County Administrator Joey Preston.

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina’s 6th Congressional District was joined by other officials in making the announcement.

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South Carolina Counties Receive $24M for Broadband

By News

Source: Government Technology

August 22, 2023   – The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.

The state’s Bamberg and Orangeburg counties will receive a combined total of $24 million to expand broadband internet service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Monday.

(TNS) — Bamberg and Orangeburg counties will receive a total of $24 million to expand broadband internet service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Monday.

“Keeping the people of rural America connected with reliable, high-speed internet brings new and innovative ideas to the rest of our country and creates good-paying jobs along the way,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a release.

“Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are connecting rural communities to a global marketplace. These investments will support economic growth and prosperity for generations to come,” he said.

The local funds are part of a larger, $700 million package of grants and loans designed to connect thousands of rural residents, farmers and business owners in 22 states and the Marshall Islands to reliable, affordable high-speed internet through the federal ReConnect Program.

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