MUSC tele-hospitalist program brings specialty care services to rural Hampton Regional Medical Center

Hampton Regional Medical Center in Varnville, S.C.
Hampton Regional Medical Center in Varnville, S.C.

Since 2019, MUSC has partnered with Hampton Regional Medical Center (HRMC) in Varnville, S.C., to bring specialty care services to the 32-bed rural hospital via MUSC’s telehealth network.

Yotam Papo, M.D.According to Yotam Papo, M.D., MPH, medical director of the tele-hospitalist program at MUSC Health Charleston, a 2015-2016 study conducted by the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office found that 85% of residents from Hampton and Allendale counties receive their inpatient medical care outside of their home counties. “This outmigration and/or bypassing of HRMC by local residents is multifactorial and has greatly impacted the long-term viability of HRMC as well as the community’s ongoing access to health care,” said Dr. Papo.

Through this partnership, MUSC provides specialty consultative services both in person on an outpatient basis as well as inpatient virtually via a telehealth platform, including tele-hospitalist, tele-neurology, and tele-infectious diseases. Most of these services were previously unavailable in the local area, contributing to outmigration. Through this program, MUSC Health Charleston-based attending physicians round via telehealth daily with the assistance of on-site advanced practice providers (APPs) to oversee all admitted patients to HRMC.

“Having MUSC provider interactions reassures the local community that they are receiving high-quality, evidence-based medicine and instills confidence in their ability to stay locally at HRMC for their care,” explained Dr. Papo.

Since the program’s inception, there has been a decrease in bypass culture as determined by emergency room (ER) utilization and admissions from the ER; suggesting more people are using HRMC. This is further illustrated by an increase of 25% in the average daily census of HRMC. Most recently, HRMC and the MUSC tele-hospitalist team were recognized by the Health Services Advisory Group for preventing 30-day readmissions and ranked #1 out of 21 other similar-sized hospitals in the state. “Perhaps, most noteworthy, we were able to support the hospital and local residents during an unprecedented global pandemic,” said Dr. Papo.

The MUSC telehealth program is helping to transform health care in the state and improve access to care in rural communities. “We have seen a successful tele-hospitalist model as evident at HRMC and we hope to expand to other rural markets in the near future by continuing to change what is possible for the residents of South Carolina," said Dr. Papo.