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COVID-19 accentuates need for telehealth in rural S.C.

BAMBERG— As the nation battles the coronavirus, the need for telehealth becomes more apparent. Here in South Carolina, Palmetto Care Connections (PCC), a non-profit telehealth network, has been promoting telehealth to rural and underserved areas for more than a decade. With the coronavirus pandemic, the time for rural telehealth has finally come.

Since 2010, PCC helped rural health care providers implement telehealth solutions to see and treat patients virtually. “We focus on three areas of work – telehealth programs, broadband and technology for rural health care providers throughout the state,” said PCC Chief Executive Officer Kathy Schwarting. PCC leads the South Carolina Health Care Broadband Consortium, filing for federal subsidies that result in up to 65% savings on broadband, internet costs and equipment for rural providers.
“In 2019, PCC filed for $5,392,741 in broadband savings for S.C. health care providers, through the Health Care Connect Fund,” Schwarting said.

One of the health care providers that PCC has assisted is Bamberg Family Practice, a rural health clinic owned by Danette McAlhaney, MD. Dr. McAlhaney has been one of the first private practitioners to adopt telehealth in rural S.C. Dr. McAlhaney provides telehealth services to schools in her community, and she uses telehealth to connect patients in her office to specialists, such as behavioral health specialists at MUSC. Most recently, in March, PCC helped Dr. McAlhaney implement a telehealth platform so she can provide care from her office to patients in their homes.

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