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Awareness Campaign Launches to Inspire Education And Policy Updates

FILE- Telehealth Awareness Week buttons
Telehealth Awareness Week is an opportunity to educate the public about how telehealth improves access to healthcare.

As the covid-19 pandemic rages on around the country, here in South Carolina more people are being hospitalized from Covid-19 than at any point since the virus hit last March.

That’s leaving clinicians, in some cases, to rely on telehealth to safely reach their patients. This week a national campaign launched called Telehealth Awareness Week. Ann Mond Johnson is chief executive officer of the American Telemedicine Association.

“The significance is that this is the first time we’ve raised the attention level across the country around telehealth and made it not just a policy issue but a public issue,” Mond Johnson says. We have to have dialogue about this at the community level...about why this is so important.”

Telehealth utilization saw an enormous increase. In 2020, South Carolina Telehealth Alliance partners conducted almost 230,000 virtual urgent care visits in the state. That's an estimated 710-percent increase from 2019.

Dr. Rick Foster is a consultant on population health and health equity for the South Carolina Departments of Environmental Control and Health and Human Services.

He says telehealth can be very effective in providing a very broad range of both outpatient and inpatient services. “People at all levels need to understand that it can be available to them.” He adds, ”It may in situations that you didn’t even know that you had that available in your community or that certain types of services that you’ve always had to travel a significant distance for, you can actually get in your community.”

Mond Johnson adds that it’s that community awareness that increases the potential for advancement of telehealth opportunities. “We all have an important role to play to ensure that telehealth becomes a permanent modality,” she says. “And, our opportunity is to remind our publicly elected officials, both at the federal and state level, that you want to have access to these services even after the public health emergency.”

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