Gov. Henry McMaster held a ceremonial bill signing Wednesday for legislation that changes the scope of practice for nurse practitioners in South Carolina.
“It’s probably the biggest step forward we’ve made in a number of years,” he said.
The new law approved by the legislature this year allows advanced nurse practitioners to assess and diagnose patients, as well as write prescriptions.
State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said the change allows greater access to treatment. “Looking at areas that are underserved, it’s very clear that rural areas don’t have the access to health care services that those in the urban area does.”
The law would effectively enable more nurses to diagnose patients via telemedicine, a term to describe the use of telecommunications and information technology to provide clinical health care from a distance.
University of South Carolina clinical professor Dr. Stephanie Burgess said she believes those living in rural areas will have greater healthcare access thanks to the legislation. “This will expand the scope of practice for nurse practitioners and nurse midwives to reach out to rural and underserved communities,” she said.
Telemedicine has been used to overcome distance barriers and to improve access to medical services which are often not consistently available in rural communities.