McDowell Tech adds telemedicine machine to campus

The new portable telemedicine machine comes housed in a small suitcase, which totes a computer and all the digital tools needed during a telehealth visit.

What looks like something  James Bond might use on a secret mission is bringing telemedicine to students on McDowell Technical Community College’s campus.

The school recently purchased a mobile telemedicine unit that can be transported to different locations when needed.  

“We received a grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Foundation,” said Director of Developmental Studies and Quality Enhancement Beverly Watts.  “We received a $25,000 grant to purchase the equipment. The equipment was just a little bit over that amount, but the college paid for the rest of the equipment. We also refurbished the (telehealth) room to get it prepared.”

The new telehealth room is housed in what used to a closet at McDowell Tech. 

After a few renovations, the small room is now suitable for telemedicine appointments, which uses video messaging equipment and specialized digital medical tools to connect patients with doctors.

“Students who visit our website can even pre-enroll before they use the service,” said Dean of Health Sciences Penny Cross.  “When they have the paperwork, they can come and we can get their vital signs and we will email to set up an appointment later in the day.  Then they give us an appointment time for the student in need.”

Cross stated that forms can be found on McDowell Tech’s website and that printed forms are available in various areas on campus.

The program has already seen its first patient.

 “The patient Monday came around 9 a.m. and got to see a doctor by around 1:15 p.m.,” Cross said last week.

Students seeking treatment can visit the telehealth room located in the Dogwood Building (Building 17).

Not only is the new telemedicine office open to McDowell Tech students, but also to students who attend early childhood care and McDowell Early College on McDowell Tech’s campus.

“Early college’s school nurse is only here once a week,” said Cross. “We want to encourage early college students to use it like the other students in public schools. McDowell Tech does not have an employee health nurse. We hope this will supplement that for a while.”

The telehealth program accepts most forms of insurance and those who are not insured can be seen for a sliding scale cost.

McDowell Tech hopes that in the future they can bring their new portable telehealth computer to public events, so that members of the public can use the program and get a better understanding of it.

“We’ve got to figure out some issues with IP addresses,” said Watts. “Once we figure all that out, we can hopefully carry it from one site to another.”

Through the Health-e-Schools program, which already has several telemedicine carts in McDowell County Schools, patients can be seen in the place where they study or work.

The Health-e-Schoosl program can help with acute issues such as the common earache, sore throat or cough, chronic disease management, medication management, sports physicals, employment physicals, emergency room or urgent care followup or spirometry and asthma care.