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Federal grant to expand telehealth network in Orangeburg, Bamberg counties

By July 20, 2020September 17th, 2021No Comments


A Bamberg-based telehealth network has received a federal grant to establish a virtual access telehealth network and expand access to health care delivery to select cities and towns in The T&D Region.

Palmetto Care Connections received a $300,000 Rural Health Network Development grant for each of three years to expand health care delivery of the rural underserved population in Orangeburg, North, Neeses, Cope, Ehrhardt, Murrells Inlet and St. George.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration awarded the grant.“The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way that health care is being delivered, and this grant will help us build on the progress that has been in made and implement telehealth in some innovative ways at rural pharmacies, churches and a tribal community resource center,” CEO Kathy Schwarting said.

Under the grant, PCC will expand its existing rural health network to establish the South Carolina Virtual Access Telehealth Network (SC VATN) by adding rural, independent pharmacies, Medical Ministries Inc., Pine Hill Indian Community Development Initiative and health care providers to the telehealth network services.

The purpose of the project is to expand access to care in the target communities by integrating the functions of network members, staff, and the board of directors to improve population health as well as individual health outcomes.

Network project activities will include: implementing telehealth services; specialty and primary care integration; improving coordination of services; implementing health information technology/exchange; and implementing programs to increase primary care workforce in rural communities.

Expected program outcomes include an improvement in quality of life among chronic disease patients, an improvement in blood pressure control among hypertension patients, an improvement in HbA1c in diabetes patients, and an improvement in knowledge and/or skills among pharmacists and providers.

The SC VATN will consist of 15 members.

Four of the members are rural, independent pharmacies: Ehrhardt Pharmacy in Ehrhardt; Giant Discount Pharmacy in Neeses, R&J Drugs in North; and Lee’s Inlet Apothecare in Murrells Inlet.

One is a non-profit organization, Medical Ministries, Inc., that operates clinics in three rural churches — Good Hope AME Church in Cope, Edisto Fork United Methodist Church in Orangeburg, and Bethel AME Church in St. George.

One is a tribal affiliated community organization, Pine Hill Indian Community Development Initiative.

Other members include Family Health Centers Inc.; CareSouth Carolina; Bamberg Family Practice; MUSC; USC School of Medicine; BlueCross BlueShield of SC;  PRISMA Health; South Carolina Hospital Association and South Carolina Office of Rural Health.

Established in 2010, PCC is a nonprofit organization that provides technology, broadband, and telehealth support services to health care providers in rural and underserved areas in the state.