If anyone wasn’t already aware that rural South Carolina faces problems of poverty, inadequate education and poor health, our recent series “Forgotten South Carolina” should have been an eye-opener.
And if anyone doesn’t think that solutions require support beyond the 26 counties covered in the series, consider the work being done at the Medical University of South Carolina.
MUSC is far more than a teaching hospital. It puts a strong emphasis on research and service as well. And one of its service areas is improving access to medical care in Charleston and beyond.
So it should be no surprise that MUSC has been developing and is beginning to implement programs that would improve the health of people in rural areas. Central to the effort is the Southeastern Virtual Institute for Health Equity and Wellness.
Technology — and a firm commitment to regional wellness — underlie the program. It is designed to put sophisticated equipment in rural communities — particularly schools where children spend much time.
School nurses access the computer system when they have to deal with health issues beyond the scrapes and scratches they usually see. MUSC doctors are available to help remotely.
The equipment enables them to listen to a patient’s heart and lungs, look in ears and view rashes. And to suggest treatment that could help improve students’ health, and help their families avoid having to leave work and lose wages in order to get their children to a doctor.
In another program, general practice doctors, who work in communities without specialists, have access to technology that puts them in voice contact with specialists at MUSC almost immediately. The specialist helps diagnose the problem and guides the physician through the process, which might involve administering a particular medicine, or might involve transporting the patient to a hospital without delay.
MUSC is also working to reduce the incidence of strokes, heart disease and obesity, problems that plague rural South Carolina.
The benefits of a healthy rural South Carolina — physically, educationally and economically — would be felt throughout the state.
MUSC has adopted a worthy goal of making a difference across the Lowcountry.