CU Mobile Medical Unit

Internet service in rural communities

South Carolina Radio Network
August 24, 2018 - 8:54 am
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AUGUST 24, 2018 BY RENEE SEXTON (South Carolina Radio Network)

When nurses, staff and students with Clemson’s mobile medical unit meet with patients, a session that could take mere minutes can take an hour because of inconsistent or non-existent wi-fi internet service.

“When we’re in our mobile clinics we lose connectivity, it’s hard for us to see our electronic health records. We can’t know what we have already down on a patient. We don’t know what medicines they’ve been on, for example, or what doctors they’ve been to,” said Dr. Paula Watt, Executive Director of the Joseph F. Sullivan Academic Nursing Center, which operates the mobile clinic.

Clemson received a three-year funding commitment of $5.24 million from the Universal Service Administration Company Rural Health Care Program. The money will be used to bring high-speed broadband technology to 102 health care sites across South Carolina to improve the efficiency of rural health outreach efforts. After the three years expire, there’s an opportunity to renew the funding. The Healthcare Connect Fund also is providing a matching grant.

“It’s going to help the medical community that’s trying to take care of people all the time and then it also helps the mobile clinics that go into the communities to try to fill the gaps in care and support local providers in the kinds of things that they need to be doing for their communities,” she said.

Watt said not only will the wi-fi service be available for use by the mobile clinics, but it will be connected for community use as well.

“It will really include broadband connectivity in general in the region,” she said. “It just so happens that we’ll have some kind of connection capability when we get there. So it’s really for the community.”

The Clemson mobile health clinic, combined with the telehealth opportunites provided by the enhanced broadband service, help provide care to places in rural South Carolina that lack health and medical services.

“Most of South Carolina is rural and there are places in this state, still, that have no physicians,” Watt said. “There’s an entire county that have no providers of any kind. There are just gaps all over this state where people just can’t get what they need.”

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