Tuesday, May 24, 2016

School Telehealth

As the current school year is ending many school districts, particularly in rural areas will be struggling with budget constraints for the new school year. School nursing programs, already strapped are continuously under the microscope when schools are looking to make cuts. Although these nursing programs are experiencing significant cutbacks the volume of students needing medical attention during the day are increasing. This puts obvious pressure on the limited nurse resources within the schools, as some schools even have other personnel (assistant principles, teachers) providing some of the basic care. This also puts a tremendous amount of pressure on parents having to leave work to pick up kids for illnesses that, if diagnosed properly, the kid(s) probably could have stayed in school.

This is not a knock on the school nurses, they do an incredible job under difficult circumstances. They just need better resources to help them be more effective. School-based Telehealth could play a critical role in relieving some of the pressures both school nurses are under and parents. The school nurse serves a pivotal role to provide expertise and oversight of school health services, promotion of health education, and connection between the academic setting and healthcare settings. 

Telehealth is a form of technology-enabled healthcare that allows patients to be seen by clinical providers at a distance through some type of video application. School-based telehealth Is an area that has the potential to virtualize office visits, while providing an important service to students with the greatest needs.

The cost of establishing a school-based program may be the largest factor in determining whether a district is wiling to engage in this endeavor. However, when taking into consideration the widening access for students, school nurses and other specialists, the return on investment for a district can be significant. Also, the potential cost savings associated with teachers using Telehealth consults in lieu of taking sick days and alleviating the cost of substitute teachers, could be very attractive for the school district.

School-based Telehealth programs are successful when they are community based. Parents, students, teachers, administrators, nurses and local providers are all keys to success. The objective is to provide cost-effective access to all students with the goal of improving academics and health. School-based Telehealth programs can have a positive impact on the students and the communities they live in.

Rodney Brown
Chief Executive Officer
HealthNet connect & BroadNet connect

The views and opinions on this blog are my own.

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