An Axios Expert Voices Roundtable Discussion in Columbia, South Carolina

On Friday, December 1, Axios hosted an Expert Voices roundtable discussion in Columbia, South Carolina featuring leaders in health care across nonprofit organizations, care providers and academic institutions. Guests discussed the main barriers and potential solutions to addressing issues impacting health care access and quality in South Carolina. Axios senior health care editor Adriel Bettelheim led the conversation.

On the challenges impacting health care access in rural South Carolina communities

Attendees outlined several challenges impeding access to care for people who live in rural areas and emphasized the need for solutions that focus on building trusted relationships between patients and their health care providers and offering more opportunities to receive quality in-person care.

  • Teshieka Curtis-Pugh, South Carolina Nurses Association executive director: “One of the things that we’re challenged with in this state is having enough providers to take care of the patients of our state. South Carolina is going to be number four in the state for the nursing shortage by 2030, we’ll need at least 10,000 nurses in this state, that doesn’t even include the physician shortage that we have as well. Especially in our rural areas where people are underserved and don’t have access to care, people may have to drive 50 miles or more to get to a provider, there’s an opportunity to engage providers in a way that is meaningful and allows them to take care of people where they live.”
  • Megan Weis, South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare director of connecting communities: “My personal concern is when telehealth is proposed as the solution to it all. It’s an amazing tool, it helps a lot, it increases access in getting to rural areas, you need to have all these other pieces in place. But folks living in rural areas deserve quality in-person care too … so it’s ensuring that we use it appropriately as that tool to increase that quality in care.”
  • Kim Smith, Health Evolve Technologies founder and CEO: “Even within the rural environments … the technology itself cannot solve the challenge with accessing health needs and basic telehealth challenges, so even with the expansion of broadband, if we don’t layer a public health revitalization strategy on top of that, we’re really going to see the same results. Technology alone can’t do that. So there needs to be more synergy.”
  • Noble P. Cooper, dentist and Delta Dental of South Carolina board member: “I think one of our biggest challenges in the rural areas is educating the patients. Not just going when there’s a problem … preventative is the key. 90% of the dollars are spent on chronic diseases, but how can we prevent it? How can we eliminate some of the food deserts? How can we move towards blue zones where people are eating properly? And a lot of that starts in the educational environment with secondary kids.”
    • Cyndi New, Self Regional Healthcare director of community health and health equity:“We definitely see that the low birthweight rate is twice that in our Black infants that are born versus their white, and I think we don’t know the answer. We can’t look at data forever, right, because we know there’s an issue and so we’ve got to get to work. I think we have enough data to get to work, but it’s understanding those root causes, and that could be anything from maybe the lack of understanding the importance of prenatal care … I think too in rural South Carolina a lot of it has to do with trust and trust in your providers.”

    Thank you to the Delta Dental Institute for sponsoring this event.

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