CHOP is piloting a school telehealth program that helps ensure children get the primary care they need at the place they spend most of their time – school.
Delivering first-rate healthcare in schools
When a child gets sick while in school, a parent’s day gets interrupted and the child misses lessons. What if the school nurse and a Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) doctor could evaluate the child via a secure computer connection?
CHOP is piloting a school telehealth program that helps ensure children get the primary care they need in the setting where they spend much of their time: their school. This is particularly important for students who do not have access to routine care or transportation to get to a primary care provider.
How it works
The school nurse uses either an iPad or a laptop computer with a web camera and “virtual visit” software to connect remotely with a CHOP provider. The nurse has digital stethoscopes and other equipment, allowing the nurse and the CHOP provider to collaborate on efficient, on-site diagnoses.
The CHOP provider is able to address many health issues through the virtual visit and can prescribe medication electronically so the child’s parent can pick it up from a preferred pharmacy on their way home from work.
In Pennsylvania, a school nurse can act on a “verbal order” from a physician but needs the documented order (for school records) within 24 hours. During the school telehealth pilot program, we will send an automatic fax to the school nurse via Epic, the Hospital’s secure electronic health record. Eventually, we want to give school nurses access to limited parts of a student/patient’s Epic record, but this is not currently available.
CHOP also sends a summary of the school telehealth visit to the child’s primary care physician, if the child has one. We can send summaries to CHOP physicians and those not affiliated with CHOP. The goal is to have all of a child’s healthcare providers working together to ensure the child remains as healthy as possible.
While the School Telehealth Program is still in the pilot stage, we have hope to prove it will meet our program goals to:
- Student absenteeism/missing class time to travel to appointments
- Lost time from work (and potentially lost pay) for parents
- Trips to ER/ED
- Potential increased acuity of health issues
- Healthcare costs (over time)
- Health outcomes
- Chronic disease management
- Health literacy
- Access to needed supplies in school nurses' offices
- School nurse capacity to further meet student health needs
- Access to primary care
- Parent satisfaction
- Use of interpreters for families whose first language is not English
A study published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that a school telehealth program can improve diabetes care in grades kindergarten through eighth.
In a Howard County, MD, program started in 2015, 98 percent of the kids who are treated through telehealth (not including those who are contagious or have conditions that can’t be treated through telehealth) immediately return to their classes.
Telehealth programs address the sudden onset of symptoms and are helping students manage chronic conditions, such as asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obesity. In addition, telehealth can generate savings for low-income families.