COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – Telehealth services will be expanding for some South Carolinians who need it the most.

Monday morning, Palmetto Care Connections (PCC), a dedicated non-profit telehealth network, announced they had partnered with the South Carolina Department on Aging (SCDOA) to expand telehealth services across rural and underserved communities in South Carolina.

This move aims to enhance healthcare access for thousands of seniors residing in these areas.

Through the agreement, PCC is set to conduct site assessments at up to 18 rural senior centers.

These assessments will evaluate the readiness of each office for telehealth services and determine their broadband capabilities. Once assessed, each senior center will receive a state-of-the-art telehealth cart, provided by PCC. These carts will play a pivotal role in facilitating telehealth visits for seniors who may otherwise lack adequate access to healthcare.

Officials say a federal grant will help cover the expansion. The initiative was up and running in three counties (Allendale, Bamberg, and Barnwell) prior to this announcement.

PCC CEO Kathy Schwarting said, “The people of our state deserve access to the highest quality healthcare.” According to Schwarting, these locations were selected based on areas with the largest health disparities.

SCDOA Director Connie Munn echoed the sentiment, “With our growing older population in South Carolina, at the Department on Aging, our focus is to ensure that our older adults have a place to live, have the quality of life, and can age with dignity and respect.” She highlighted the partnership with Palmetto Care Connections as a critical step toward improving healthcare access for older adults in the state.

Officials said the 65 and older age group made up 18% of the state’s population in 2020. By 2035, they estimate it will make up 24% of the state’s population.

Munn and Schwarting said these telehealth carts are poised to play a vital role in the well-being of older adults. Once offices are identified for the equipment, PCC and SCDOA will oversee the placement of these carts.

According to officials, seniors will be able to receive primary or specialized care through telehealth visits.