S.C. inmates to receive telehealth care

Four South Carolina prisons will begin using telehealth in a partnership with MUSC to treat patients.

The Medical University of South Carolina and the state Department of Corrections are teaming up to provide telehealth services to inmates in four South Carolina prisons.

Using the service, a doctor in Charleston can consult with the care team at a prison any time of day via video conferencing equipment. Then, the doctor can remotely prescribe medications, treatments and procedures that prison officials can implement for the inmate.

Bryan Stirling, director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, said the partnership will enhance public safety by limiting offender transports. It also will save taxpayer money, he said in a press release.

His agency oversees 20,620 offenders throughout the state with many facilities located in remote areas.

The telehealth partnership with MUSC will initially include the following four prisons: Kirkland Reception and Evaluation in Columbia, Evans Correctional Institution in Bennettsville, Turbeville Correctional Institution in Turbeville, and Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville.

Other states, including Texas, Florida, Colorado and Mississippi, already use telehealth in prisons.

The Pew Charitable Trusts concluded in a 2014 report that telehealth services can reduce health care spending on inmates.

South Carolina spent $2,933 per inmate in 2011, according to the group. The national average is $6,047.

MUSC telehealth medical director James McElligott said the technology is poised to improve the health of everyone in the state, including prisoners.

“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,” McElligott said in a prepared statement.

Reach Derrek Asberry at 843-937-5517. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.