COVID-19 Telehealth Resources for SC patients and providers

Updated on 5/15/2020

In today’s environment, it is important for patients to feel safe and secure as they seek medical advice and assistance. Palmetto Care Connections is working to educate patients and providers on the role that telehealth can play in combating COVID 19.

Palmetto Care Connections joins the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers, the Center for Connected Health Policy, the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance, the South Carolina Hospital Association, the South Carolina Office of Rural Health and many other partners in promoting telehealth resources to help impact the current situation.

Our staff is available to help providers set up virtual platforms so that patients can adhere to the recommendations of social distancing and staying at home. If you are a rural health care provider who is interested in implementing a telehealth platform and you have questions about set up, licensure, reimbursement or general information about telehealth, please contact us at [email protected] or call Kathy Schwarting at 803-707-2378.

The following is a list of resources that patients and health care providers can use to get current information about Telehealth and COVID-19.

South Carolina COVID-19 Updates
For most up to date information on the status of COVID-19 in South Carolina, please visit the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control SCHA COVID-19 and acceleratSC website.

National COVID-19 Updates
For current information about COVID-19 in the United States, visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 Online Screening
For patients with COVID-19 symptoms (respiratory infection, fever, cough, flu-like symptoms) or known exposure, please complete a Virtual Urgent Care visit to receive consultation and determine whether further testing is appropriate at one of the health systems listed below. To access the free consult, use the promo code COVID19.

Also, Self Regional Healthcare is offering telephone screening. Call the COVID-19 Screening Line at 864-725-4500. 

COVID-19 and SC Schools:
Beginning March 16, 2020 all South Carolina public schools are closed through the end of 2019-2020 school year.

The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) is working closely with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and other agencies to ensure local school districts, parents, and students have the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 (commonly called coronavirus). Please visit DHEC’s dedicated website for important information concerning the virus and its impact on South Carolina. Have a general question about COVID-19? Call the DHEC Care Line at 1-855-472-3432 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily. SCDE has mapped the SC School Food Sites and free internet for students using SC Wifi Hot Spots available on school buses that are stationed throughout the state.

COVID-19 and SC Residents:
The Office of Regulatory Staff has issued information regarding Utility Services during COVID-19 as well as updates from Telecommunications Providers.

COVID-19 Telehealth FAQs for SC Health Care Providers:For any providers getting started with telehealth, the National Telehealth Resource Center Consortium’s COVID-19 technical assistance document is helpful.

As things rapidly develop on both what we know about COVID-19, policies around telehealth have also been developing alongside of it. Refer to the Center for Connected Health Policy for resources and updates including Telehealth Coverage Policies in the Time of COVID-19 to Date – UPDATED 4.17.20.

Telehealth Policies and Laws

  • All SC practitioners should be familiar with South Carolina’s SC Telemedicine Act (S1035)
  • Non-physician practitioners should be aware of additional guidelines or laws for their field. Please reach out to your respective licensing body for guidance.
  • For current South Carolina state laws and reimbursement policies go to the Center for Connected Health Policy.

Telehealth platforms for providing telehealth services to patients in their homes

  • There are multiple HIPAA compliant video platforms available. One web-based video platform often used by SC Telehealth Alliance partners is me, which is available free of charge during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth, which allows providers to use platforms such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Apple FaceTime for provision of telehealth services during this national emergency. Please review the notification as certain public-facing platforms are still excluded. 

Reimbursement for Telehealth services to patients in their homes

  • After passing in both the House and Senate, the President signed into law HR 748, the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security Act or “CARES Act”. The $2 trillion relief package not only provides economic relief but also funding for health care, including some telehealth items. One of the most significant is allowing Federally Qualified Heath Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) in this emergency period to be a distant site provider for a telehealth service covered by Medicare. However, these services will be paid an amount calculated from the fee-for-service schedule, not the prospective payment system. Learn more about the expanded coverage in this article from MLN Matters published by CMS.
  • The telehealth reimbursement landscape is quickly changingas restrictions are being temporarily lifted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. To receive ongoing telehealth coverage and policy updates, we encourage everyone to visit the Center for Connected Healthcare Policy’s website and sign up for their listserv.
  • Medicare: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has broadened telehealth reimbursement for Medicare beneficiaries for the duration of the COVID 19 crisis. Here is a summary of recent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) actions taken in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), as part of the ongoing White House Task Force efforts: CMS NEWS ALERT APRIL 21, 2020. To keep up with the important work the Task Force is doing in response to COVID-19, click here For information specific to CMS, please visit the CMS News Room.
  • Medicaid:SC DHHS is working on a COVID-19 action plan and will post any changes to its policies publicly on its website.
  • The SC Department of Insurancehas a dedicated page its website that focuses on insurance industry developments in South Carolina pertaining to COVID-19
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield: BCBSSC does cover some telehealth visits into the home upon completion of virtual care services application (see telemedicine (CAM 032) and telehealth (CAM 176) policies). Policies around telehealth are likely to be lightened due to COVID-19. To stay up-to-date please reference the BCBSSC website.

In the midst of the current COVID-19 environment, please join Palmetto Care Connections and our partners in continuing to identify solutions including telehealth to address the challenges.