Telehealth to Transform Patient Care Behind Bars

Contact: Heather Woolwine

July 5, 2016 

CHARLESTON, SC – The South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) and Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Health are partnering to provide telehealth services to patients behind bars. The parties have signed an agreement that will provide access to health care for incarcerated patients via telehealth services that will be available in four institutions throughout South Carolina, including Kirkland Reception and Evaluation, Evans Correctional Institution, Turbeville Correctional Institution, and Lee Correctional Institution.

The partnership is part of an emerging national trend to provide better care to underserved populations. According to a 2014 report from The PEW Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, per-inmate spending on prison health care grew by a median of 10 percent from 2007-2011. South Carolina spent $2,933 per inmate in 2011. The use of technology allows the department of corrections to apply clinical resources more effectively while providing quality health care and ensuring public safety by decreasing the number of trips to outside providers.

“Utilizing telehealth services allows the agency to provide care to offenders while offsetting the cost to taxpayers with fewer trips to outside providers,” said Bryan P. Stirling, Corrections director. “This initiative promotes public safety by limiting offender transports outside of prisons.” A focus on primary care via telehealth services allows SCDC to provide better care and greater access to higher acuity level patients. Both parties are committed to improving patient care by delivering on-demand, point-of-care access to physicians. Sometimes specialists or other providers may not be available for significant periods of time to the prison system, but this telehealth partnership will increase access to quality care regardless of the number of available providers in various institutions throughout the state.

“Telehealth is poised to improve the health of all South Carolinians, and this connection is a significant advance furthering that mission,” said James McElligott, M.D.MUSC Health Center for Telehealth medical director. “The technologies, when wisely applied, can transcend the significant challenges in providing care to this population and have tremendous potential for cost savings to our state. This effort is yet another example of how our state legislature’s vision and support has enabled telehealth services to be developed and deployed efficiently.”

The South Carolina Department of Corrections has jurisdiction over 20,620 offenders throughout South Carolina with many facilities located in remote areas. Telehealth services allow physicians to examine inmates while enabling corrections officers to keep potentially dangerous inmates behind bars rather than bearing the cost and security risk of transporting them to hospitals. The ability to provide these services has vastly improved due to technology developments in recent years, including the implementation of electronic medical records.

About MUSC Health

MUSC Health is the clinical enterprise of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), comprised of a 700-bed medical center, the MUSC College of Medicine and the physician’s practice plan. It serves patients across South Carolina and beyond through four hospital facilities in Charleston and more than 100 outreach sites. Among these are the Hollings Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute-designated center in the state, and a nationally recognized Children’s Hospital. The Medical University was founded in 1824 and has become a premiere academic health sciences center at the forefront of the latest advances in medicine, with world-class physicians, scientists and groundbreaking research and technology that is often the first of its kind in the world. Visit MUSC Health for more information.