PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Students in Pender County Schools can get almost instant access to a healthcare professional during school hours with the help of technology.
Since 2012, the nonprofit Pender Alliance for Teen Health (PATH) has worked to set up shop in three Pender County schools to help kids and their families get healthcare without having to leave school or work, thanks in part to telemedicine.
Telemedicine allows patients to receive medical care remotely with the help of webcams, computers, and video conferencing.
"Telehealth is a way that we can communicate with our medical provider when they're not here on site," said LeeAnn Solomon, a registered nurse placed at Cape Fear Middle and Elementary schools.
In March, the PATH team acquired new telehealth gadgets with attachments that allow the provider to remotely examine the patient's heart, lungs, ear canal, temperature and more.
"The exam is done from a distance, but it's like I'm in the room with the patient," said Pamela Balogh, family nurse practitioner.
The telehealth technology is smaller and less expensive than the original communications technology, which was a large cart.
"It's amazing to see in just five or six short years that now, that big giant cart is one little handheld device that fits in the palm of your hand," said PATH Executive Director Sandy Rowe. "We've kind of gone from the Jetsons to Star Trek."
PATH operates at Pender High School, West Pender Middle School, and Cape Fear Middle and Elementary schools.
"I graduated from Pender High in the early 2000s and we didn't have anything here at this school at that time," said Balogh. "Now we not only have only have this clinic, but we have the telehealth equipment that's available. We're able to reach out to far more patients and parents. We do teachers and staff as well."
Under the leadership of Rowe, a team of nurses, behavioral health specialists, and other health care providers work to address the kids' health needs in the school environment.
Besides telemedicine, PATH also provides physicals, immunizations, hearing and vision screening, mental and behavioral health, sicks visits, and chronic disease management.
Private insurance, Medicaid, and uninsured students on a sliding fee scale are all accepted.
Students can get treatment with or without an appointment.