Rural hospital adds virtual palliative care program

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) bought four rural hospitals in early 2019, including the Carolinas Hospital System medical center in Mullins. Now known as the MUSC Health Marion Medical Center, the small hospital is using telehealth to expand access to specialty services like palliative care.

Telehealth is the use of live video technology to connect patients and health care providers.

"Palliative care focuses on relief of suffering," said Dr. Alecia Anyim, the physician leader for the telehealth palliative care program at the Marion Medical Center. It's introduced as part of the care plan when a patient is diagnosed with a serious illness; unlike hospice, which focuses on the end of life.

"We're able to provide the provider that's not actually here," said program manager Lauren Seidenschmidt. "And, via the telehealth, able to see the patients in this area who need our help who we don't want to travel to Charleston. We want them to stay here in their homes with their families."

Dr. Anyim says using telehealth saves patients nearly a full day of travel to see the palliative care specialists in Charleston, while still providing the same level of care at their local hospital.