Adding telemedicine technology to schools leads to improved health outcomes for students, according to recent studies. Many children in American public schools have limited access to medical treatment due to poor transportation, difficulty coordinating with parent schedules and lack of primary care. By adding a telemedicine kiosk in the school nurse’s office, students miss less school for medical appointments and gain access to care that they may not have had otherwise.
Richard Lampe, MD, Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Texas Tech University Health Science Center, reported to the Texas Tribune that “Ninety percent of what you would see in a general pediatric clinic, we could handle it by telemedicine.”
Access to care is strongly linked to location and socioeconomic status. Children in lower income areas often wait longer for care due to limited access, transportation difficulties or lack of availability of guardians. A program in Rochester, New York made telemedicine available to patients in 4 “inner-city” schools. Students were treated within an average of 23 minutes for ENT issues, physicals, dermatology consults and other use cases. 85 percent of patients were treated the same day, and a patients were afforded treatment that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
School attendance increases when students are afforded the appropriate care. The outcomes are positive for acute but non-emergent complaints as well as physicals that are often required by the school board to participate in activities. When parents are not immediately available to pick a child up from school, telemedicine can address acute complaints and, in many cases, return kids without contagious illness to class rather than sending them home.
By providing care to students with chronic illnesses such as Type I Diabetes, care outcomes improved over in-person care, and patients missed less time in class. In a study of school telemedicine for Type 1 Diabetes published in The Journal of Pediatrics, A1cs were lower in the telemedicine follow-up group than in in-person treatment. Improvements were noted on the Pediatric Diabetes Qualities of Life questionnaire, and there were significantly fewer urgent diabetes-related calls in the telemedicine group. Additionally, patients with school-based telemedicine follow-up were hospitalized less. The access to specialist care without significantly disrupting the educational environment was a valuable addition.
School-based telemedicine programs still require parental consent, but these forms can be provided electronically to parents and guardians regardless of where the custodial adult is located. By working with a solution like Mend, paperwork can be instantly pushed out to a parent’s mobile phone or email for completion within seconds. This consent allows the patient to be treated without the parent present.
Mend also enables parents to participate in the session from anywhere. Multiple parties can log in to the same session with a secure link. This means that the custodial adult or adults can take part with the treating provider, patient and school nurse. The parents don’t have to leave work or find transportation to participate with their child.
When only the patient and provider participate in the session, parents often have questions regarding prescriptions, treatment plans or ongoing care. By working with Mend, providers can finish charting and forward treatment information or notes to parents through a secure message. Parents still have access to their child’s treatment information, and the information is forwarded through a simple-to-use, HIPAA compliant channel.
One of the largest barriers to school-based telemedicine up to this point has been the cost of the equipment. Large carts are no longer required to connect to a patient in a school setting, and the school may not need to be any extra equipment. Solutions like Mend can work on any phone, tablet or computer with a front-facing camera, microphone and Internet connection. Many schools utilize existing technology and offer telemedicine with limited out-of-pocket.
There are considerable advantages to making care available where children are already located. By delivering medical services into schools, one provider is able to cover multiple locations without any travel. This provides for greater coverage, better attendance, improved chronic illness outcomes and high satisfaction for all participants.
If you have questions about how telemedicine could be implemented in your district, let us know! Our workflow experts are happy to help.