Telemedicine has been a growing field for virtual healthcare services that has spread across the United States. For example, schools have now taken on various telehealth services to provide effective diagnostics and treatment to students in need. In North Carolina, for instance, McDowell County Schools’ assistant superintendent Mark Garrett implemented a school-based telehealth program within the entire 6,000-student district including schools and Head Start sites, according to the publication Education Dive.
Telehealth programs like this one are partnering with other organizations to spread their mission. Issues as complex as mental health can also be addressed through telemedicine and ensures that students miss fewer days of school.
Essentially, telehealth programs can help students reduce the amount of absent days and provide better access to healthcare especially to families located in rural areas. In another state – North Dakota – the Southwestern District Health Unit is working to spread telemedicine at the Dickinson Middle School by partnering with the Center for Psychiatric Health. In this case, students can speak with physicians located as much as five hours away.
In Texas, there are several school districts that are also participating in telemedicine services including helping students with risk-based behaviors who are referred to counseling sessions. School nurses are becoming adept at utilizing telehealth technology to help students receive greater access to healthcare.
“[School nurses] are more effective at triaging who really has the greatest needs for telehealth services,” Laurie Combe, president-elect of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), told the news source. “School nurses have expertise in care coordination for students with chronic health conditions. For rural communities and for impoverished communities, telehealth facilitated by school nurses has great promise to increase access to care.”
Essentially, with the help of telehealth programs, school nurses and teachers will more clearly be able to define whether or not a student should go home if they are feeling sick. A physician could provide the best advice through telemedicine regarding whether a child needs to stay home and not attend school. All the guesswork is taken out of the equation when a telehealth program is implemented.
A school-based telemedicine program was incorporated via the organization Children’s Health in Dallas, Texas. The issues that this organization saw in their community saw that nearly half of all emergency room visits occurred during daytime hours and parents often had trouble getting time off work to take their children to the doctor’s office. Children’s Health also sought to partner with schools in order to boost children’s cognitive, physical, and emotional development.
Connecting students to telemedicine provides a quick and easy way for children to be diagnosed by a physician. Schools were equipped with various types of technologies such as digital scopes and high-definition, real-time videoconferencing.
Testing for strep throat and flu was also available on site. Drug prescriptions were also sent directly to the local pharmacy of each family. Parents could ask questions and receive a summary of the virtual visit after hours.
Many benefits were found from this telehealth program implemented in Dallas, Texas. For example, approximately 10,000 virtual consultations were conducted in more than 100 schools throughout 16 school districts. So far, parents have been satisfied with the program since they are now able to save time and money on healthcare services.
Teachers and other educators are satisfied because students are able to return to class within minutes instead of hours or days. The data finds that approximately 85 percent of students who participate in a telehealth visit at school return to class right afterward.
Since school funding is based on average daily attendance among students, schools benefit financially when telehealth systems are implemented. Additionally, school nurses state that approximately two out of three students who use telehealth would have otherwise ended up at emergency departments or urgent care centers. As such, telemedicine programs save both families and the healthcare industry money. School nurses also report greater professional satisfaction due to the benefits of telehealth.
In the state of Michigan, Monroe Public Schools have received a second grant of $100,000 to implement a new telehealth program in the district, according to The Monroe News.
This grant is meant to help spread the use of telehealth services, which are expected to reduce absenteeism among students as well as improve children’s overall health and wellness.
“Now, with this technology, the health liaison can review a child’s symptoms, collaborate with a school nurse and the child’s plan on file,” Superintendent Julie Everly told the news source. “Then the remote team can determine if the child needs to be monitored outside of the school environment to ensure proper care or send them to class if they are deemed healthy. The student doesn’t miss out on learning and the parent won’t miss out on work.”
The use of telemedicine programs can help school systems around the country, by making it simpler to find out whether a sick student should go home or whether they are in need of greater medical care. Students are less likely to miss school and more likely to be healthy with the help of telemedicine. Parents are more likely to save time and money on medical costs as well. In addition, schools can actually obtain more funds by increasing the attendance rates among their classrooms.