MUSC National Beacon of Telehealth Excellence: Case Use for Future Deployment


  • Dee Ford Medical University of South Carolina, Professor of Medicine
  • Kathryn King Cristaldi Medical University of South Carolina, Associate Program Director, Center of Excellence
  • James McElligott Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Medical Director for Telehealth


Session Description: In 2017 MUSC was one of two academic health systems recognized by the federal government as a Telehealth Center of Excellence. The Health Resources and Services Administration gave MUSC this designation in recognition of MUSC’s expansive breadth and depth of telehealth services, most of which are in medically underserved areas of South Carolina, a state with a high burden of chronic disease and health disparities. This panel presentation will include three key leaders of MUSC’s telehealth program and focus on practical strategies organizations can deploy to successfully develop and implement telehealth services. The panel will share the structured, guiding framework MUSC applies to telehealth service development which includes strategy, development, implementation, and continuous quality improvement. Additionally, MUSC will share a value proposition framework for telehealth services, recognizing that financial performance is integral to sustaining and scaling telehealth services. Finally, the session will conclude with MUSC’s aspirational vision for the future of digital discovery and telehealth delivery, offering the potential to transform healthcare.


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Author Biographies

Dee Ford, Medical University of South Carolina, Professor of Medicine

Dee W. Ford, MD, MSCR, is a Professor of Medicine in the Medical University of South Carolina’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.  Her clinical focus is critical care and her research focus includes palliative/end-of-life care, quality improvement, and reducing health disparities in critical care.  Dr. Ford is the Medical Director for MUSC’s Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) and is a champion of quality improvement and patient safety initiatives. She is widely recognized for her collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach to improving the care of critically ill patients and their families. Her efforts are characterized by novel program and implementation, elevating performance to better meet patient/family needs, and facilitating the professional development of others.

Dr. Ford became active in telehealth in 2009 and was tapped by MUSC leadership in 2013 to develop a strategic plan for accelerating MUSC’s telehealth programs. She serves as the Medical Director of the Tele-ICU and ICU Innovations Critical Care Outreach programs.  MUSC’s Tele-ICU is a cornerstone service that currently supports six South Carolina community hospital ICUs. Collaborating with site champions at South Carolina community hospital ICUs, MUSC’s ICU Innovations is comprised of an interdisciplinary outreach education and quality improvement team who conduct on-site, quarterly seminars for interdisciplinary ICU teams.

Dr. Ford has recently taken on a new role as Program Director for MUSC’s HRSA designation as a national Center of Excellence for telehealth. As a Center of Excellence (COE), MUSC will fill important gaps in the national telehealth landscape through a combination of ongoing regional and national collaborations and proactive dissemination of telehealth resources.  The COE will address the following objectives:
1) the impact of telehealth on federal and local healthcare spending
2) provider and patient engagement in telehealth, and
3) open access network evaluation and best practice dissemination

Dr. Ford is from Anderson, South Carolina, and received her BS in biology from the University of South Carolina where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.  She received her MD from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society.  Dr. Ford completed her internal medicine residency training at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and her pulmonary/critical care fellowship training at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Kathryn King Cristaldi, Medical University of South Carolina, Associate Program Director, Center of Excellence

Kathryn King Cristaldi, M.D., MHS, is the medical Director for School Based Health and an assistant professor in the Division of General Pediatrics at MUSC Children’s Hospital. She directs the clinical care and programmatic functioning of both in-person and telemedicine School Based Health Centers and provides clinical care to students.

Dr. Cristaldi has a special interest in extending the reach of primary care and preventative medicine to underserved children through school based health. Hailing from a rural area herself, she has sought out opportunities to become involved in the local community to ensure the health and wellness of school children. Dr. Cristaldi is dedicated to exploring public health solutions that utilize involvement of key stakeholders at each level of the sociologic framework to provide innovative and sustainable solutions to address healthcare disparities. In this role she continues to use her research skills and experience leveraging partnerships between school, medical and local community personnel in order to successfully increase access to health care in rural communities.

Dr. Cristaldi received her undergraduate education at the University of Dayton and earned her medical degree at the Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University. She completed her pediatric residency at MUSC, and an academic generalist fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University, earning a Master of Health Science degree from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

James McElligott, Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Medical Director for Telehealth

James T. McElligott, M.D., MSCR, is the Medical Director for Telehealth at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and an Assistant Professor in the Division of General Pediatrics at MUSC Children’s Hospital.  He oversees the Center for Telehealth at MUSC. 

Dr. McElligott’s career has been driven by a passion for helping the vulnerable and the conviction that the way to do so is through population-level change. These led him first to an interest in pediatrics, caring for the most vulnerable of patients, and in improving the health of children both in the United States and in developing countries. He then realized something startling about his own state that would fuel his interest in rural outreach: the poverty along the I-95 corridor in South Carolina rivals that in many developing countries. Given the magnitude of the health care disparities in these areas, he came to believe that real progress in this generation could only be made through the radical innovation offered by telehealth. Using videoconferencing and other technology, telehealth brings the care to the patient instead of expecting the patient to come to the care, thereby eliminating many traditional barriers to care.   His work in telehealth began as he developed a school-based telehealth program to bring primary pediatric care to underserved children in Williamsburg County, one of South Carolina’s poorest areas.  He later assisted in the development of telehealth programs serving both children and adults, and in 2013 accepted the position as Medical Director for Telehealth at MUSC. 

Dr. McElligott currently serves as the Chair of the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance Advisory Council, the Secretary of the Pediatric Telehealth Special Interest Group of the American Telemedicine Association, a Board Member of Palmetto Care Connections, and is the Chair of the Trident United Way Health Vision Council in Charleston.  In 2014, Dr. McElligott received the Health Care Hero from the Charleston Regional Business Journal for his work with school-based telehealth. 

Dr. McElligott received his undergraduate education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned his medical degree at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He completed his pediatric residency at MUSC, as well as an academic generalist fellowship, earning a Master of Science in Clinical Research degree. 



How to Cite

Ford, D., Cristaldi, K. K., & McElligott, J. (2021). MUSC National Beacon of Telehealth Excellence: Case Use for Future Deployment. Blockchain in Healthcare Today. Retrieved from