The new platform, which became available on Jan. 1, gives patients access to care from MUSC Health providers via online questionnaires, phone calls, video visits and texts. Work on the platform started seven years ago.
MUSC Health CEO Patrick Cawley said MUSC Health knows that it can be difficult for people to take time away from work to address urgent health care issues, and that care can be hard to access, take too long or be too expensive. The new platform is a solution for all of that, Cawley said.
Care through the MUSC Health Virtual Care application is provided by the Medical University of South Carolina emergency department. Several providers are always available on the application. Cawley said wait times to speak with a provider average about four minutes, and most visits take less than 15 minutes to complete.
“No appointment is necessary with the doctor, unless the virtual urgent care provider feels you need to be seen by a doctor,” Cawley said. “And at that point, they’ll facilitate you getting to your primary care doctor or emergency room or somewhere else that they feel is necessary.”
MUSC Health says the virtual visits have low cost and are often covered under an insurance copay. Conditions treated through the telehealth app include the common cold, head lice, pink eye, skin rashes, sore throats and urinary tract infections, among others.
MUSC President David Cole said access and costs are major issues in health care across the nation.
“This platform allows state employees to have almost immediate, free access to health care from anywhere,” Cole said. “We’re excited and honored to have the opportunity to partner with PEBA to make sure this moves forward. And we’re also excited to have the opportunity to continue to make a difference in terms of rural health care within this state.”
Peggy Boykin, executive director of the S.C. Public Employee Benefit Authority, said one of the core missions of the agency, which covers roughly 10% of the state’s population, is to provide accessible and affordable health care to all the state’s public employees and their families.
S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said he doesn’t know of any other state using such a program.
“But we all know that a healthy, happy population is necessary for prosperity,” McMaster said. “If we can have people working and be happy and healthy and educated, then there’s no limit to what we can do in South Carolina with the institutions we’ve built over the years, the technology that’s available and our people.”