MUSC Offers Certificate in Telehealth and Digital Transformation

As one of the first healthcare organizations in the nation to fully embrace telehealth, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) has been named one of only two centers of excellence for implementation of this important diagnostic and treatment tool. With the help of the Lowcountry Graduate Center, MUSC has established a six-week course in which students can earn a certificate and digital badge for telehealth and digital transformation.

At present, the course is offered to MUSC students in health administration and health informatics. MUSC plans to make it available to other students at the medical university and the general public as well in the near future.

What Is Telehealth?

Telehealth refers to a variety of services, most commonly video or audio appointments with healthcare providers, but also text messaging, remote monitoring and health tracking. Because reimbursement systems were established for telehealth during Covid, many of which have been retained, and because consumers have now come to expect telehealth as an option, its use has blossomed.

Telehealth gained widespread traction during Covid, when in-person visits were constrained, but has supplemented in-person healthcare for half a century. Its use was accelerated in the early 2000s with the advent of high-speed internet, webcams, videoconferencing and smartphone apps. A study in BMC Public Health found that healthcare employing telehealth was improved during the pandemic and reduced COVID-19 transmission. The study didn’t follow up, but that likely resulted in reduced morbidity and deaths.

The role of telehealth is here to stay,” said Dr. Jami Jones, professor at MUSC College of Health Professions and chair of the Department of Healthcare Leadership & Management. “It is critical that leaders and managers in healthcare understand its administration because so many services are now provided digitally.”

Telehealth Certificate Program Supported by LGC Grant

MUSC has employed telehealth to great effect in rural areas of South Carolina in which it provides services. Telehealth offsets the need for patients to travel long distances just for a doctor’s visit or for regular follow-ups. That increases patient participation in their own health care, boosts compliance rates, and leads to improved outcomes.

The certificate course was a couple of years in the making, supported by a $25,000 Opportunity Grant from the Lowcountry Graduate Center. That money was employed to develop the curriculum and testing for this six-week, asynchronous online course.

Advantages to Students of Telehealth Certificate

The course was piloted with a dozen students in 2023 and will be offered again in 2024. The six modules cover a variety of topics, including the design and provision of research services, digital health networks that support quality and innovation, policy and regulations, and AI and machine learning. The courses are taught by industry and academic experts.

The certificate program is designed to provide a foundation for students going into clinical disciplines where telehealth services are provided. Understanding the fundamentals of telehealth can provide an advantage in their job search and once employed.

“I learned much more than I anticipated – I even worked at a telehealth startup and I don’t think I was exposed to this much detail there either,” said a student in the first cohort in the spring of 2023.