DATE: January 27, 2021
Contact: Kathy Rhoad Director of Public Relations & Program Development
ORANGEBURG, SC—The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has notified Palmetto Care Connections (PCC) that PCC’s broadband consortium members will receive more than $17 million in broadband subsidies for the period of 2019 through 2022. These funds represent actual savings for health care providers.
“As the leader of the South Carolina broadband consortium, PCC helps health care providers receive broadband savings through the FCC’s Healthcare Connect Fund Program by assisting them with the internet service provider bidding process and filing the appropriate information, invoices and supporting documentation to the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC),” said South Carolina Office of Rural Health Chief Executive Officer Graham Adams, Ph.D. “PCC has a proven track record as a top health care broadband consortium leader in the nation.”
“The Healthcare Connect Fund Program provides subsidy reimbursements for up to 65% of eligible broadband expenses for eligible health care providers,” said PCC Director of Information Technology Matt Hiatt. “Currently, PCC files for over 1200 circuits across more than 100 health care organizations that are approved for federal subsidies. Our consortium members are located in five states in addition to S.C., and the number of members continues to grow each year.”
South Carolina broadband consortium members include federally qualified health centers, nonprofit hospitals, behavioral health centers, rural health clinics, teaching hospitals, rural emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities and area health education centers.
“The broadband subsidies have provided funds that have allowed many organizations to reinvest in their technology systems and telehealth which ultimately has led to better patient care,” said Hiatt.
CareSouth Carolina Chief Information Officer Gary Herrington agrees. “CareSouth Carolina has been a member of the PCC broadband consortium for many, many years. Thanks in large part to the reimbursements from the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, we have had the ability to grow our information technology infrastructure to meet the needs of CareSouth’s more than 38,000 patients and 500 employees at 14 rural medical practices in South Carolina’s Pee Dee region.”
Another PCC broadband consortium representative, Prisma Health Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Rich Rogers said, “Prisma Health has valued our collaborative partnership with Palmetto Care Connections for several years. We have been on a common journey to extend virtual health capabilities to underserved communities across South Carolina. The benefits of this relationship were evident in 2020 as we have been able to extend necessary health care services during a time of greatest need.”
“PCC did not start out working in the broadband area,” said PCC Chief Executive Officer Kathy Schwarting. “As we were trying to expand telehealth in rural communities, we found that one of our largest barriers is broadband access. You cannot have a good telehealth visit if you do not have adequate broadband. Through the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, PCC has helped make broadband more affordable for health care providers across S.C. As a result, providers were prepared to use telehealth to respond to challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Since 2013, PCC has helped health care providers save more than $25 million in broadband costs through the FCC’s Healthcare Connect Fund program.
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 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, information technology and broadband professionals. 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 health care access and delivery for all South Carolinians.