The prisons in South Carolina have made the switch to health care driven by technology to improve public safety and save money. The prisons were using a 1980’s electronic system combined with paper records for the 20,000 inmates. The new record system began in two facilities as a pilot in February of 2017. All the prisons are expected to be using this system by September of 2018.
The acceptance of electronic health records has been slow for the prisons. The switch was due to the rewards for hospitals and doctors because of the Affordable Care Act. Prior to this, the transient population, the long list of things to accomplish and no financial incentive caused delays in the prisons. There should be cost savings from this switch. A study was conducted in Chicago through the University of Illinois. This revealed when this switch was made by the much larger prison systems in Texas the taxpayers saved approximately $1 billion.
The prison system in South Carolina was also able to expand their telemedicine capabilities due to this opportunity. The Telehealth Alliance for the state has provided a new way for medical attention to be received by the prisoners. South Carolina’s Medical University can now enable video conferences between health care providers and inmates. The University of South Carolina and Palmetto Health are planning to make specialty care and urgent care available at two of the prisons in the system through the Telehealth Alliance. This program is scheduled to begin this fall. The prisons will benefit from these partnerships because escorting inmates to locations outside the facility is very risky. For more information please visit https://www.postandcourier.com/health/s-c-prisons-switch-to-electronic-medical-records-expected-to/article_1e73c608-641f-11e8-8718-df2ed322f931.html.
South Carolina is not the only prison system in the country filling in the gaps regarding what they can provide with telemedicine. The prisons have shifted to telemedicine partially because of the electronic records. The medical records for some of the inmates are currently incomplete. When electronic records are not available the staff has to build their own medical records from scratch.
NextGen Healthcare is the company responsible for providing this technology. They have ensured the system has been appropriately customized to benefit the prisons. A good example is the ability of the system to screen for substance abuse and suicide upon intake. The packed schedules of nurses and doctors have made it difficult for them to adapt to electronic medical records. According to a study in 2013, 43 percent stated the new system slowed them down.