Rural hospitals are among the key economic anchors for their areas. Along with their principal mission to provide primary acute health care services, they often are one of the largest employers and represent one of two sectors that are key to attracting industrial or business development. These factors make health care institutions essential to the economic vitality of a rural community. As the second largest employer in the region, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’s (ARHS) goal of building a healthier High Country has expanded in recent years to include two hospitals, 14 medical practices, a rehabilitation facility with a skilled nursing care wing and a health care foundation.

“While so many rural hospitals are closing across the country, we’ve been able to remain independent and financially sound,” said ARHS Chief Executive Officer Chuck Mantooth. “We feel a responsibility to make life better in the Appalachian region by providing a complete spectrum of health care services that focus on prevention, treatment and healthier outcomes for our residents.

Early in the project development stages for one of ARHS’s newest facilities, The Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge, which opened in 2017, ARHS consulted SkyLine/SkyBest about communications services. The connections that tie the health care system’s centralized data center to its growing network of medical facilities and offices are a crucial component of their overall operations.

A state-of-the-art, post-acute rehabilitation and long-term care facility, The Foley Center chose SkyBest for its fiber-based TV, Metro Ethernet and broadband services. Metro Ethernet allows ARHS to share resources between The Foley Center and Watauga Medical Center, making the rehabilitation facility an integrated part of the existing extended network. As a result of this experience at The Foley Center, the health care system once again called on SkyBest to establish network service connections to additional areas.

SkyBest now provides Metro Ethernet connections to medical offices and facilities beyond ARHS’s medical campus in Boone, including Elk River Medical Associates in Banner Elk, Jefferson Specialty Clinic in Ashe County, App Ortho’s Jefferson office and Cannon Memorial Hospital in Linville. Having these locations tied to ARHS’s data center means the medical office professionals and staff have seamless access to voice, email and internet connections so they may concentrate on delivering high-quality, patient-centered care.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System Senior Vice-President of System Advancement Rob Hudspeth and President and CEO Chuck Mantooth with SkyLine Executive Director of Competitive Operations Edward Hinson and Strategic Sales Supervisor Brent Keith.

Patients can now “Stay on the Mountain”

The newest facility to open under the ARHS umbrella is Appalachian Regional Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center, more commonly referred to as App Ortho. The orthopedic services provider offers both non-operative treatments and surgical services with its primary office on Doctors Drive and a remote office in Ashe County on the Ashe Memorial Hospital campus. App Ortho also is the only orthopedic provider that performs surgery locally at Watauga Medical Center and is complemented by the hospital’s new 10-bed orthopedic wing on the third floor.

“The decision to add the new orthopedic wing was made to streamline our approach to patientcentered care,” said Eddy Maillot, Senior Director Clinical Service Lines at ARHS. What used to be a three-to-four-day stay in the hospital following knee or hip surgeries is now a one-totwo- day stay, with the goal of ‘toes on the floor’ the same day of surgery. “Ours is an individualized, patient-focused full spectrum of care approach, from the patient’s first visit with their provider at App Ortho all the way to 90 days post op. It’s an approach designed to optimize patients’ recovery through rehabilitation at the Foley Center, home health or outpatient therapy.”

App Ortho also is the official ‘home team’ sports medicine provider for Appalachian State University Athletics, Watauga High School and the High Country Soccer Association.

Above Left: With a patient-focused approach to care, Physical Therapist and In-patient Rehabilitation Supervisor Debbie Berry and Senior Director of Clinical Service Lines Eddy Maillot have been really pleased with patient outcomes in the new orthopedic wing at Watauga Medical Center.

Above Right: ARHS Director of IT Mark Heckle (at right) works closely with SkyLine’s Brent Keith (at left) in securing Metro E connections from the medical campus’ data center to its newest satellite locations, including App Ortho’s office on the campus of Ashe Memorial Hospital in Jefferson.

“Working with other national telecommunications service providers could not provide the level of customer service we needed and greatly limited our ability to get issues resolved,” said Mark Heckle, director of IT for ARHS. “We realized we were a tiny fish in a large pond, so we are really excited to work with SkyBest as a local company to get more personalized services as well as out-of-the-box solutions. We know these guys, we have recommended them to others and we feel very strongly about our working relationship.”

“This is an ideal example of how SkyBest can bring connectivity and network solutions to additional areas outside of SkyLine’s traditional service footprint,” said Executive Director of Competitive Services Edward Hinson.

“We now have a fiber remote location in Boone that provides the type of high-capacity dedicated network facilities for large-scale applications such as ARHS that are carried over our state-of-the-art, fiber-optic network infrastructure.”

Network reliability is paramount for medical facilities that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. ARHS Network Engineer Jason Cook explained, “Our own internal network reliability percentage is 99.999, so we want to work with a service provider that commits to similar standards and can meet our own bar of expectations.” SkyLine’s Brent Keith and Kenny Church consulted with ARHS’s IT group on the development of all the network services provided to their various locations, culminating with App Ortho’s Jefferson site.


Watauga Medical Center (WMC)
is a regional referral medical complex in Boone offering both primary and secondary acute and specialty care. The Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center also is located on the WMC campus.

The Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge
is a post-acute care facility in Blowing Rock that provides short- and long-term care, skilled nursing, rehabilitation services, memory support, assisted living and palliative care.

Cannon Memorial Hospital
is a 25-bed acute care hospital in Linville with a 10-bed inpatient behavioral health unit and rehabilitation center.