Palmetto Health Tuomey expands to increase accessibility


No one has time to be sick, and people don't want to spend time waiting around to see a provider when they feel bad. To help meet the need for fast care in Sumter, Palmetto Health Tuomey has grown the Carolina Family Medicine office, and the hospital system also has an online portal, SmartExam, to offer you faster, more convenient ways to get treatment.

One of the new physicians at the practice is Dr. Serena Smith, who joined in 2017. She has a history of working in a government setting, and before that, she had her own practice in Colorado.

"I watched babies and children grow and move on to college and their own careers. I was part of families rejoining and restructuring," Smith said. "I was honored to be allowed into these peoples' lives, struggles and successes."

Now she is proud to serve the Sumter community.

"Our clinic is staffed with experienced, knowledgeable, caring people, focused on keeping patients well," she said. "I am impressed with the awareness our staff attained over the years regarding individual patients, which leads to open communication with the patient and reveals the best ways to educate them on making healthier choices."

Melanie Jordan, a nurse practitioner, joined Carolina Family Medicine about the same time.

Jordan is new to the Sumter area, but she is not new to the Palmetto Health family. She started her career as a registered nurse 23 years ago. In 2015, she began taking steps to become a practitioner.

One of the biggest obstacles to good health in Sumter is access to a primary care physician, Jordan says.

"In my short time practicing in Sumter, I have become aware of the limited access to health care in the community, particularly primary care," Jordan said. "The majority of my patient population has expressed their concern regarding the limited availability of providers in the community and also share their overwhelming gratitude in being able to establish primary care at our clinic now that it is expanding."

With two new practitioners joining Dr. Kristen Wyrick at the practice, more appointments will be available and patients are able to see a provider faster.

But even with more appointments, there will be times when you are sick and unable to see your doctor - such as the weekend, for example. For those times or when you are experiencing a non-emergency, SmartExam is available on your smartphone, tablet or computer. The easy-to-use portal lets you complete an online interview about your symptoms; those symptoms are then reviewed by a licensed provider.

"I believe in most (non-emergent) circumstances, using SmartExam can be nearly as effective as seeing a doctor," Jordan said. "In primary care, a good, subjective history of patient's symptoms is a large piece in the diagnosing process. A huge component of SmartExam is to obtain a detailed history from the patient so the provider can treat the patient based on symptoms. With the focus being on minor illnesses that do not always require immediate attention, I think SmartExam is a valuable asset to productive patient care."

The new online service is for minor medical conditions, including colds, sinus pain, sore throats, allergies and skin rashes.

SmartExam is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including holidays. Responses are provided within one hour between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The cost for a diagnosis and treatment plan is $20. If we can't treat you through a SmartExam, there's no charge to you.

However, it is good to remember, even if a doctor treats you, your body will still need time to rid itself of the illness.

"We always want to feel better faster when we're sick," Smith said. "A cold, sore throat, earache, bronchitis, cough, sinus infection are usually viral and take time, usually seven to 10 days, to recover from."

Smith suggests that if you are sick to stay well hydrated and get plenty of rest.

"There is no magic bullet and no pill to make the sickness go away," she said, "but there are steps you take to reduce your symptoms."

She suggests the following:

- For pain and fever - Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and/or anti-inflammatories (Motrin, Aleve, Advil, Ibuprofen);

- For cough - honey or hard candy/cough drops;

- For congestion - Guaifenesin (Mucinex) and nasal irrigations for sinuses; and

- For a sore throat - gargle one teaspoon salt mixed in one cup water.

If you would like to set up an appointment with a primary care practitioner, call 803-774-CARE (2273).