A contract between the South Carolina Department of Corrections and the Medical University of South Carolina has provided four of the state’s prisons with audio and visual communication technology geared toward remote diagnostic medicine that avoids having to transport inmates.
The S.C. DOC averages $58 million spent yearly caring for the health of approximately 20,620 inmates, one of the lowest per-inmate costs in America. However, laying out $22,000 for the MUSC mobile carts through state appropriations, $70 per hour that detention facilities pay for every complete patient evaluation from a doctor, and $300-per-day cost of on-call emergency services may expand the telehealth program into every prison across South Carolina, if results earn the General Assembly’s blessing.
DOC officials are hoping legislators take to heart the risks inherent in putting prisons on lockdown every time dispatching two corrections officers and a driver to escort an ailing inmate for medical care leaves staff shorthanded. That’s to say nothing of the public risks if an inmate should escape in transit to and from a medical facility.
A detention facility nurse can utilize telehealth technology to request an immediate consultation from an on-call physician by way of each mobile cart’s MUSC-connected computer portal equipped with speakers, microphones, cameras, and instant access to patient medical records. Once in contact, the doctor can then provide assistance from checking for rashes or skin lesions to directly examining the ears, nose or throat, listening for breathing or heartbeat irregularities, ask patients about symptoms, and even request immediate blood tests, X-rays, and blood pressure tests onsite. More serious conditions can still be treated by bringing inmates directly to MUSC.