From The SCTA Leadership

Left to right: James T. McElligott, M.D., MSCR, Kathy Schwarting, MHA, and Mark Wess, M.D., MSc

We are on the verge of providing the most accessible healthcare in history. The work deploying telehealth in South Carolina has shown that health services at a distance can be implemented and scaled, best practices can be established and the research on health impact is bearing fruit. In this report, we reflect on the progress and advancement of telehealth throughout the past year. However, this is not to take pause, but rather to energize and accelerate our efforts. It is our responsibility to learn from the work since the SCTA was founded, including the catalyst of the pandemic, and put forth our resources in collaboration to continue the mission of improving the lives of all South Carolinians.

In all domains for telehealth service, there has been an impressive development over the years, followed by an unprecedented acceleration in response to the pandemic. It is in this combination of solid foundation followed by rapid innovation that we have the tools to exit this pandemic as a stronger and more accessible healthcare community than ever before. However, it will take intentional efforts to ensure that this access reaches all of the citizens of the state. Collaborations depicted throughout this report span public and private, large and small, distant and local elements. These must continue to cover our map and find each individual in need.

Please enjoy this report, as it represents more success than we could ever have imagined. Then, please, take a hard look at the strategy before us and digest what each arm of the plan means as a call to action. We look forward to charging forward with all of you once again to establish this most accessible healthcare in history for our state.

James McElligott, MD, MSCR Co-Chair, Medical University of SC 

James T. McElligott, MD, MSCR

Telehealth Executive Medical Director
Medical University of South Carolina
SCTA Advisory Council Co-Chair

Kathy Schwarting, MHA Co-Chair, SCTA Advisory Council Palmetto Care Connections 

Kathy Schwarting, MHA

Chief Executive Officer
Palmetto Care Connections
SCTA Advisory Council Co-Chair

Dear Fellow South Carolinians:

I appreciate the opportunity to address you and be part of the 2021 SCTA Annual Report. In the past few years, we have experienced the most challenges to our health and healthcare systems in our lifetimes. We mourn those who have lost their lives and celebrate those who have strived to save them and others while providing care for all of us – both at the point of care and all those behind the scenes who make it possible.

Preference for new care options: The SCTA was formed seven years ago and recently helped position many health care providers in the state to address the coronavirus pandemic. We have seen telehealth’s meteoric rise, with some waxing and waning use by patients, mirroring the surges in cases. It has taught us that while other care models can be effective, patients want choice and still desire in-person care. In a recent survey, sixty six percent of patients wish to have video visit as an option. Given equal cost, preference is split between in-person and video.1 We need to continue to evolve our healthcare environment to better support these changing care models and our patients.

Equity: We have seen barriers to virtual care similar and different than in-person care. Many South Carolinians do not have access to broadband connections. As one example, only 49% of Allendale has access to broadband.2 Financial barriers are more pronounced for virtual care, such as connectivity service fees, connection-video devices, and health monitoring devices. And, even with the tools, technical literacy can be a barrier for successful use. Palmetto Care Connections addresses many of these barriers and is a diamond for the state.3 While they are making great strides, collectively we need to close this gap in access to all care options.

Opportunities: The majority of providers have used and continue to offer virtual visits. We need to continue our journey to offer new and convenient care options to improve each person’s health. We need to continue to implement digital services, such as remote patient monitoring, eVisits, automated chat, and specialist video care throughout our state – wherever the patient is. Expanding both allowed and payer/plan covered services would provide improved access and assist in transforming the care models for all providers in the state.

Your role: The SCTA and its members need you on this journey. Everyone can play a part to continue advocacy for the expansion of services, policies, and payer support, and address gaps to ensure all have access to these convenient and impactful services. Our patients deserve the best we can offer. We are grateful for your resilience, innovations, and new contributions.

Mark Wess, M.D. Prisma Health 

Mark L. Wess, M.D., Msc

VP Chief Health Information Executive, Prisma Health
Member, South Carolina Telehealth Alliance Council


1 - JAMA Network Open. 2021;4(12):e2136405. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.36405
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