Virtual visits are a lifeline for South Carolina patients

When everyone in her home became sick with COVID-19 at the same time, Shirley Erwin struggled to take care of her family while suffering through the illness herself. 

“I was upset, nervous, overwhelmed,” Erwin said. 

Her 16-year-old son’s symptoms were especially worrisome. Erwin considered driving from her home in Bennettsville, South Carolina, to the nearest Emergency Room. But thankfully, she had another option: telehealth

Using her smartphone, Erwin connected to virtual visits with CareSouth Carolina Family Nurse Practitioner Lauren Small, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, CME. Small advised Erwin on how to treat her son’s symptoms, and within a week, her son had improved. Erwin’s symptoms took longer to ease but eventually, she felt like herself again. Erwin credits her family nurse practitioner with the whole family’s recovery from COVID-19. 

“She was there when we needed her,” Erwin said. “She doesn’t know how much that meant to have her available when we needed her in that moment of uncertainty.”

Small said telehealth helped providers treat their patients at a time when in-person access was limited due to the pandemic. 

“Telehealth really stepped in and bridged the gap of medical care for a lot of patients,” Small said. “It really helped us get care for patients of all backgrounds and all conditions.” 

CareSouth Carolina Family Nurse Practitioner and Associate Medical Director Jeri Andrews, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, said that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, CareSouth Carolina was conducting up to 10 telehealth visits per month, but since the start of the pandemic, it has held more than 19,400 virtual visits. She said telehealth has shown that it can improve patient outcomes, improve patient access and decrease costs for patients. 

“I think that we’ve just scratched the surface of possibilities with telehealth in healthcare,” Andrews said. “I think in the near future, telehealth is going to be the preferred method of care delivery.”