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PCC Names Program Assistant

By Latest News, News

Palmetto Care Connections (PCC) Chief Executive Officer Kathy Schwarting announces that Ramona Midkiff has joined PCC as program assistant.

In her role, Midkiff provides administrative support to the CEO and department directors, implements financial processes, maintains financial records, and assists with marketing and education activities including website, social media, creative design, presentations and special events.

“Ramona joined PCC in March and hit the ground running,” said Schwarting. “We were finalizing details for our 8th Annual Telehealth Summit of South Carolina, which we subsequently rescheduled due to COVID-19. Since she joined PCC, Ramona has proven to be a dedicated, hardworking team member. She brings exceptional skills in organization, creativity and design, and is well-versed in numerous computer applications. She is a self-starter, very intuitive, and is definitely an asset to PCC.”

Prior to joining PCC, Midkiff was an account executive and graphic artist for Image Group Ink in Orangeburg, S.C. Her previous career experience includes: co-owner of Treasured Memories, a gift and specialty shop in Orangeburg, 2012 – 2017; online sales manager/graphic designer for The Times and Democrat in Orangeburg 2007 – 2012; sales/webmaster for North Furniture in North, S.C., 2005-2007; and manager/graphic designer for Husqvarna in Orangeburg,1991-2005.

Midkiff holds an Associate Degree in engineering graphics from Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College. She attended the University of South Carolina in Columbia where she studied graphic design, and she has completed additional classes at OCtech in web design and business.

A resident of North since 1975, Midkiff graduated from North High School. She and her husband Ken, have two grown sons, Christopher (wife Jenny, and daughter Addie), and Dustin (fiancé Lindsay).

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 leads the S.C. health care broadband consortium which facilitates broadband connections for health care providers throughout the state. PCC co-chairs the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance, along with the Medical University of South Carolina, partnering with health care organizations and providers to improve health care access and delivery for all South Carolinians.


By News

Information provided by Center for Connected Health Policy

Telehealth policy changes occurring within the COVID-19 environment have been rapidly developing on almost a daily basis.  CCHP is committed to keeping you updated on these important changes both federally and on the state level.  Watch our latest COVID-19 policy update videos.


Timestamp: March 31, 2020 – 12 pm PT

As things rapidly develop regarding what we know about COVID-19, policies around telehealth have also been developing alongside of it.  Below is a summary of what is covered by various public and private payers with the information that has been released. Keep in mind that events are evolving and to consider this a living document that could change frequently as new information and new policies become available/are enacted.  CCHP will continue to make updates when they become available.

Below is information regarding current policies and the changes made due to passage of HR 6074 and HR 748 as well as recently released CMS guidances.  Note that HR 748 removed significant sections that HR 6074 had put into law.

Download the information below in the form of an easy to read fact sheet here!

Click here to see informative tables and options for additional information 

Alert: FCC Waives Additional Universal Service Rules for Rural Health Care Providers

By News

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC has issued a second order waiving additional universal service rules to assist entities that participate in its Rural Health Care Program. The new order extends the filing deadline for the 2020 funding year, liberalizes the competitive bidding requirements for “evergreen” contracts and extends several procedural deadlines. It follows an earlier order waiving the “gift rule” to allow service providers to offer free or reduced-price services to recipients of Rural Health Care Program funding.

  • Extension of application window: The order extends the window for health care providers to apply for the 2020 funding year. The new deadline is June 30; the original deadline was April 30. The new deadline applies to both the Telecom Program and the Healthcare Connect Fund Program.
  • Evergreen contracts: The rules for the Rural Health Care Program allow funding recipients to avoid rebidding their services every year if they enter into contracts that specify the service being provided, what the services will cost, where the services will be provided, and the term of the agreements. Once the specified term ends, the funding recipient must rebid the contract. The order allows Rural Health Care Program recipients to extend any contracts that expire in funding year 2019 to funding year 2020 by waiving two rules – one that prevents an extension of contracts past their terms and another that limits the total length of contracts to five years. This is a one-time waiver, and it applies only to contracts that expire during funding year 2019, which runs from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020.
  • Procedural deadlines: The order extends a series of procedural deadlines for the Rural Health Care Program:
    • Responses to information requests: The normal deadline for applicants to respond to information requests from the Universal Service Administrative Company is 14 days; the order extends that deadline to 28 days. The waiver will apply to any information requests issued on or before September 30.
    • Service delivery deadline: Normally, all services must be delivered by the end of the funding year to be eligible for support under the Rural Health Care Program. The order waives this deadline for funding year 2019 for non-recurring services (that is, services purchased on a one-time basis), and will allow reimbursement for such services if they are delivered by June 30, 2021.
    • Invoice filing deadline: The rules for the Healthcare Connect Fund generally require funding recipients to provide invoices for reimbursement within six months of the end of the funding commitment. The order extends that period for 180 days for funding year 2019, so that funding recipients will have just slightly less than one year to provide invoices.
    • Appeals and requests for waiver: The FCC’s rules require any party that requests review or a waiver of a Universal Service Administrative Company decision to submit the appeal or waiver within 60 days. The order extends that period to 120 days. The extension applies to all deadlines for requests for waiver or review from March 11 to September 30.


FREE Online Screenings for COVID-19

By News

Several health systems in South Carolina are offering free virtual screenings for the coronavirus (COVID-19)

If you are experiencing fever, sore throat, cough, or shortness of breath, you can have a virtual screen with a trained medical professional. This will allow our community to receive a screening for COVID-19 and the appropriate care without exposing themselves or others to further sickness. This will help us to prevent the spread of infection.


USDA program could soon bring Internet to rural Grand Strand and Pee Dee areas

By Latest News, News


HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – Families living in the rural parts of both the Grand Strand and the Pee Dee could soon get connected to high-speed internet thanks to government funding through five different USDA programs for broadband.


  • ReConnect Program: This program provides grants, loans and loan grant combinations to telecommunications service providers, cooperatives, Tribal entities and municipalities to facilitate broadband deployment in under-served rural areas.
  • Rural Broadband Program: This program provides loans to construct, improve or acquire facilities and equipment. This program was re-authorized by the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018; commonly known as the 2018 Farm Bill.
  • Community Connect: The Community-Oriented Connectivity Broadband Grant (“Community Connect”) Program provides grants to deliver broadband to rural communities lacking high-speed Internet service. The grants fund broadband infrastructure and broadband connections at community centers.
  • Distance Learning and Telemedicine: This program helps rural communities acquire the technology, equipment and training necessary to virtually connect with educators and medical professionals for remote services.

$8.1 million has already been spent to connect homes in Charleston and Berkeley counties, and the rural areas of the Grand Strand and Pee Dee could be next in the second and third rounds of funding.

“Rural areas lack broadband high-speed internet,” said Debbie Turbeville, the South Carolina director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development department.

The USDA is looking to bring an internet connection to the most rural parts of South Carolina.

“You think about all the students that go home in the afternoons and they have no internet, or their internet’s so poor it takes them two or three hours to connect,” said Turbeville.

It’s through ReConnect, one of five USDA broadband programs that gives funding to service providers in under-served rural areas.

They’ve already connected homes in Huger, South Carolina in the first round of funding, and rural counties along the Grand Strand and Pee Dee could be next.

“We started out with $600 million, and then Congress appropriated $550 more million, so there’s plenty of funding,” Turbeville replied.

Cooperatives, municipalities and non-profits are just some of the eligible applicants.

Turbeville says the program makes a tremendous difference in education.

“Children can compete with other students in other areas, urban areas, that have better high-speed internet,” she said.

Rural families are just one sector the program affects. “It’ll also help hospitals and colleges and businesses. It’ll attract businesses to communities,” Turbeville pointed out.


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.