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UNC Children's Hospital Partners with CarolinaLink to Expand Telemedicine to Rural Areas

March 18, 2021

By Tracey E. Schelmetic - Virtual PBX Contributor

During the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the world’s business and personal lives have gone virtual. Education, healthcare, employment, shopping and entertainment are all relying on the Internet far more than life in the “before times.” While this switch to virtual life has saved some businesses and many jobs, it has become something of a burden for rural areas underserved by telecom companies.


CarolinaLink, a political advocacy group for the North Carolina Broadband Cooperative’s Coalition (NCBCC), is comprised of North Carolina’s seven Broadband Membership Cooperatives, who together provide advanced technology services to many of the state’s most rural areas. CarolinaLink member SkyLine/SkyBest recently announced a $500,000 commitment and 10-year partnership with UNC Children’s Hospital to support rural virtual health programs across the state. The goal is to bring more telemedicine to areas that need it.

The gift from CarolinaLink will allow UNC Children’s to develop a telemedicine program that will connect children in rural areas across North Carolina with specialty providers at UNC Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill. UNC Children’s Hospital is a top-tier academic medical center that serves patients regardless of their ability to pay. The hospital’s nearly 200 physicians are clinical and research faculty of the UNC School of Medicine, and their medical expertise spans nearly 50 programs in the School of Medicine's 20 clinical departments, including 14 divisions in the UNC Department of Pediatrics. They are joined by more than 1,800 clinical and ancillary staff, all dedicated to providing exemplary, compassionate care to the thousands of children the hospital treats each year.

“We are proud to be partnering with our CarolinaLink members to make this gift to UNC Children’s Hospital,” said Kim Shepherd, chief executive officer for SkyLine/SkyBest, in a statement. “North Carolina’s communications cooperatives have always worked to serve the underserved areas of our state by providing critical communications services. This new telehealth program is a perfect opportunity to utilize the broadband services we provide to connect families living in rural areas to world-class health services from UNC Children’s Hospital.”

UNC Children’s has already begun forging partnerships with other health systems and pediatric offices in communities across the state to launch the telehealth programs. Locations will be selected in areas where it is more difficult to travel to the Triangle for pediatric specialty services.

“By partnering with rural pediatric clinics and other rural care providers, we’ll be able to bring specialty care closer to home for these children and their families,” said Michael Steiner, MD, MPH, Pediatrician in Chief at UNC Children’s Hospital. “We are grateful for the commitment and support from CarolinaLink and we are excited to launch this new telehealth program.”




Edited by Maurice Nagle


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