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Why Use Telehealth at School?

Hattie Hayes

Written by Hattie Hayes

Every parent knows how quickly sickness can put a dent into a child's educational experience. Whether your kids are in kindergarten or high school, if your child falls ill, it means a few days out of school to recover--and probably a doctor's visit or two. However, now that telehealth is making its way into schools, it's becoming easier to diagnose children as soon as they begin showing symptoms. A trip to the school nurse has become equivalent in many ways to a traditional doctor's office visit. Your child may even have a recovery plan before you can leave work to pick them up.

One program, Health-e-Access, based out of the University of Rochester Medical Center, began in 2001 and has seen 13,000 telemedicine visits completed successfully. The visit begins with a nurse checking the child's vital signs, and utilizes a telemedicine cart for remote examination.

Following the visit, the student's health information is relayed to their regular pediatrician. In rural areas, using the hub-and-spoke model in schools is an effective way to guarantee care for students who may not regularly be able to access a physician quickly.

Telehealth use in schools goes beyond ear infections and the common cold. Increasingly, telemedicine is being utilized for mental health purposes in schools. Behavioral struggles and learning disabilities often show their first symptoms in the classroom. Using telemedicine to diagnose these conditions can help make students more comfortable, especially if they're nervous about doctors' visits. It's easier for parents, too, to make time and ask questions when a mental health consult is performed in-school.

Students with chronic conditions can also benefit from school-based telehealth, making consults with primary care physicians accessible and avoiding complications. Managing health in-school means fewer absences and a welcoming learning environment that feels safe for students.

Medicaid doesn't reimburse for school-based telehealth in all states, but policies are always growing and changing. Projects in Texas and Georgia are seeing great success with funding from a Medicaid waiver. New Mexico also ensures Medicaid reimbursement for doctors who perform school-based telehealth consults.

Access to care is crucial for keeping kids healthy, and school-based telehealth is a boon for parents, too. By utilizing remote visits, schools save parents an initial trip to the doctor's office, and make filling a prescription as easy as possible. Parents don't need to take off work to make sure kids get the care they need, and there's no need to acquire a doctor's note for excused absences.

As telemedicine makes its way into more households and institutions, more locations become health centers. It's clear that school-based telehealth is going to grow as telemedicine does, and that means increased access, time savings for parents, and best of all, healthier kids.


Have you participated in a school-based telehealth program? Let us know in the comments!

Published: April 27, 2016