Telehealth could bring more care to S.C. underserved seniors

A new partnership announced in South Carolina will help connect the rapidly growing senior population with health care access.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 5:44 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - A new partnership could help more seniors in South Carolina get access to health care.

The state says it’ll help thousands of older South Carolinians, especially in rural and underserved areas.

The key is telehealth, something that became more popular than ever during the pandemic. Health experts say it’s here to stay.

A new partnership announced at the State House on Monday will help connect South Carolina’s rapidly growing senior population with that access.

“In 2020, 65 years and older made 18.7% percent of our population here,” said Connie Munn, director of the South Carolina Department on Aging. “In 2035, it’s projected that our older population is going to be 24% of South Carolina’s population.”

The partnership between the South Carolina Department on Aging and the nonprofit Palmetto Care Connections will add 18 senior centers and councils on aging across the state.

Staff at the centers will be able to assist seniors with telehealth visits with their primary and specialty care doctors – without needing to physically be in the doctor’s office.

This has been available in three counties through a pilot program.

Now money from the federal government will allow them to bring this access to 18 offices in 14 new counties across the state.

“We went through — I think there’s like 137 locations for offices on aging across the state, and we picked out those that had some of the highest health disparities and were defined as rural,” said Kathy Schwarting, CEO of Palmetto Care Connections.

Ultimately, the goal is to have these telehealth carts available in all 46 counties across the state – at all offices on aging.

The Department on Aging says most seniors in the state are on Medicare – which it says does a good job covering telehealth visits.

When the legislature returns to Columbia next year – the department says it’ll push to ensure private insurance covers more of these visits as well.