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Matter of life and tech: The state of health care IT

Here’s a Carolina COVID-19 story to consider. While much of the country scrambled to figure out the collision of IT and health care last year, our state had at least one advantage: We’re pretty solid on telehealth.

Eight years ago, South Carolina passed some of the first legislation to fund statewide telehealth investment. That spurred the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance (SCTA), a public/private health care network that’s gained national recognition. Around that same time, the lauded Greenville-based remote health management company ChartSpan was founded. By 2017, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) was named one of just two National Telehealth Centers of Excellence.

Fast-forward to 2021, and ChartSpan co-founder Jon-Michial Carter is telling IT news outlet HisTalk that the company saw a 30% increase in enrollments among its customers in 2020. That tracks right alongside the 28% of people nationally who had their very first remote health appointment last year, according to IDC Health Insights.

So, what’s next? COVID-19 uncovered so many issues — let’s call them opportunities — related to fast and widespread expansion of health care IT. The in-demand technologies include remote health monitoring, wearables, patient mobile apps, connected medical devices, IoMT (internet of medical things), videoconferencing, clinical collaboration and more.

The glue among all these, perhaps the biggest opportunity, is cybersecurity. Health care administrators have fiercely protected their security budgets, and will spend what’s needed for the right expertise. The risks are just too great now that health care administrators and medical researchers are working and collaborating off-site.

Data nerds are also in demand. All the new IT infrastructure and gizmos generate vast amounts of data, but health care organizations need help making it useful. Notably, a bioinformatics program operated by MUSC and Clemson University launched in 2018, so the Upstate might be generating the masters and PhD grads who can take the lead.

Then there’s good old-fashioned IT integration. Many organizations adopted too many different technologies in the rush to meet COVID-19 demands and now need a cohesive virtual health strategy. A recent push by SCTA to make insurance coverage for telehealth visits permanent beyond COVID-19 would further boost health care IT adoption, as well as the need for expertise.

History shows South Carolina is up for this challenge.

It’s nice to have a little spot here at UBJ again, offering perspectives on life science and technology locally and statewide. I’m looking forward to your thoughts and feedback.

This article was originally published in the Upstate Business Journal.


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