Legislators consider expanding telemedicine in SC - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Legislators consider expanding telemedicine in SC

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No one enjoys long wait times and scheduling struggles that can come with going to the doctor's office. But now legislators and doctors are supporting a new high-tech alternative to the office visit.

Dr. Allen Wenner's waiting room is oddly silent and completely empty. But not because his patients are unhappy. They're just online.

"What a wonderful, convenient way to keep up with my health care," said a patient named Kimberly.

She began using telemedicine to get help with her chronic arthritis. She fills out a secure, online form and within hours, Dr. Wenner issues a diagnosis or treatment recommendation.

"As long as the illness does not require a clinical hands on examination, there's no medical evidence that requires an exam, then we can prescribe anything that's appropriate," said Wenner.

"If you're just having a flare up of an old, known condition, the expense of an office visit or ER visit is unnecessary," said Kimberly.

And many state lawmakers agree. A bill in the legislature would extend telemedicine to all state employees by reimbursing participating physicians.

"You can go into their home and get specialists that they would otherwise never see, so we're actually moving the highest level of care closer to the patient," said Dr. Kristopher Crawford, who represents South Carolina's Senate District 63.

But there is some resistance to the idea. Wenner said 6% of physicians in the state offer telemedicine.

"There is a desire in South Carolina to retain an initial face to face encounter with patients," said Crawford.

"It's generally not reimbursed and it takes some IT infrastructure," said Wenner.

Yet the practice is widely implemented in other states. And according to patients, can cost up to 50% less than an in-office visit.

"That allows your physician more time to concentrate on you in a less hurried environment," said Kimberly.

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