One of the goals for telehealth is to bring care directly to patients in a more convenient way – especially in underserved communities. As rural hospitals close nationwide, the expansion of telehealth services can be a crucial addition to addressing needs in those communities.
Since the South Carolina state legislature voted to support the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance (SCTA) with state funding, information technology has been a critical part of their strategic plan in service expansion statewide.
The SCTA’S IT work group does a lot behind the scenes to make sure that everything runs smoothly. They are from healthcare institutions across the state with one common goal. They are using their expertise to address certain issues like connectivity problems in the rural parts of the state, identifying common issues that are slowing down providers or discouraging them from accessing certain telehealth programs, and working out solutions to overcome these boundaries.
Michael Haschker, the Telehealth Technology Team Manager for the Medical University of South Carolina says he sees more collaboration in South Carolina than most other states with promising telehealth growth. He motivates the group by telling them that “we can overcome these problems as we work together; being able to provide healthcare no matter where you are is most important.”
The group hopes to be a catalyst in promoting full awareness in organizations about telehealth opportunities. Haschker says that people who have known him for years still aren’t sure what he does on a daily basis because they don’t know what telehealth really is. Haschker says that if they are a successful group, then “we will work ourselves out of a job; telehealth will be a part of regular health care.”
One of the biggest problems that hinders telehealth growth in South Carolina is broadband access. Lisa Hines of Greenville Health System noted that even where she lives in Berea, S.C. which is close to Greenville, there are notable boundaries to Internet access. This is especially troubling for school-based programs, since some of the public school systems can’t afford quality broadband access in their rural locations. Haschker also stressed this problem, since a lot of the public school patients that they are seeing would not have received health care otherwise.
South Carolina ETV is a member of the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance.