Though the Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC) has five clinical offices across South Carolina (Charleston, Columbia, Florence, Greenville, and Greenwood), barriers still exist that make accessing genetic services difficult for many families. To address that need, the Center has embarked on a telehealth initiative in partnership with the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance.
Telehealth is a way for patients to receive services virtually, from a provider in a different location. GGC began its telehealth program last month between its offices in Florence and Charleston, with plans to expand the program statewide in the future.
The Center's Florence office does not currently have a full time clinical geneticist, and appointments for patients in the Pee Dee area are limited because physicians have to travel from other offices to see patients. The new system allows a physician in Charleston to log on and evaluate a patient in the Florence office with assistance from telemedicine coordinator, Jennifer Lynch. Telehealth is expected to increase the number of available appointments by 50%, decreasing both wait time and travel.
"Patient access to care is a challenge that we have addressed in many ways over the years at GGC," said Mike Lyons, MD, Co-Director of Clinical Services and head of the telehealth initiative at GGC. "With the advanced communication technologies now available, a provider in one location can see a patient in another location and provide clinical evaluations, consults and genetic counseling. This will make it much easier for patients in rural areas of our state, or those with transportation issues or other barriers, to access the care they need."
The telehealth system includes high resolution video and audio equipment with screen sharing capability to provide counseling sessions and consultations. In addition, specialized telehealth medical tools, which include digital stethoscope, otoscope, ophthalmoscope, and dermscope attachments, allow detailed physical examinations to be performed.
Lindsey Brant of Murrells Inlet was the first parent to take advantage of the new system during a follow up appointment for her 16 month old daughter, Kynzie.
"Our visit went really well. It was as if Dr. Lyons was right there in the room with us," said Lindsey. "It was so helpful to not have to travel so far."
"We are often caring for families in very difficult and fragile medical situations," shared Lyons. "Telehealth will remove the inconvenience, burden and expense of travel, and allow us to see them near home more quickly, so these families can focus on what's most important – getting the care their loved ones need."
The program has received financial support through the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the GGC Foundation, including a recent $150,000 gift from an anonymous private Upstate family foundation.
"We are grateful that these granting organizations and partners recognize the value in providing greater access to genetic services across South Carolina," said GGC's Director, Steve Skinner, MD. "The private foundation gift will help us not only pilot this program in Florence, but also provides resources for us to develop additional telehealth clinics statewide in rural areas and underserved communities."
To learn how you can support this initiative, or other programs of GGC, visit www.GGC.org or contact the GGC Foundation at 864-388-1813.