GREENFIELD — A new telehealth clinic will soon make it possible for students to be examined by a physician while at school, saving parents time and hassle.
Dawn Hanson, Director of Health Services for the Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation, said the program will hopefully be operational by March 1.
“We are doing a controlled roll-out beginning at Harris Elementary and Greenfield Intermediate School,” she said, with the hopes of expanding into all schools within the district.
Parents will be given the opportunity to sign a consent form allowing their student to be examined through a telehealth visit if they become sick at school, displaying signs they may need to be seen by a doctor.
Using portable equipment purchased through a grant, Hanson will be in charge of traveling to the student’s school to help facilitate the exam and report the student’s vitals.
“I get the student placed in the queue with Hancock Health for the student to be seen by a provider. The provider will connect virtually, and will already have access to the student’s vital signs and complaints,” she said.
Through the telehealth equipment, the provider can hear breath sounds and see in the student’s ears, nose and throat, and can communicate with the student on screen as well.
The provider then asks Hanson to conduct any further assessments and complete the exam.
“We will be able to test for flu, COVID, mono and urinary tract infections. The provider will call in any necessary medication to the parent’s preferred pharmacy, and will call the parent to review the visit,” said Hanson, who thinks the new program will serve families well, saving money and providing quicker access to care.
“Particularly during peak cold and flu season, same-day appointments with healthcare providers can be difficult to come by, causing parents to use the ER or an urgent care for their children,” she said.
“By having telehealth available as an option for families, we could potentially have the child seen, diagnosed, and medication called in to a pharmacy (if needed), prior to the parent arriving at school to pick up their ill child.”
Hanson said the program will “save time for the parent, provide quicker care for the student, and will prevent the parent and student from being potentially exposed to other illnesses while sitting in the waiting room to be seen elsewhere.”
The clinic can also help connect families with a family physician, if they don’t already have an established healthcare provider.
As both a nurse and mom, Hanson thinks the new program is a great idea, especially when she thinks back to how prone her youngest child was to strep throat while in elementary school.
“He invariably spiked his fever when he was at school,” she said. “As it was a common occurrence for us, it would have been extremely valuable to both my son and myself to have him already diagnosed and medication ready to be picked up before I could even get to him at school from work.”
Hanson said the examiner can determine whether the student is discharged for the day or allowed to return to class.
While telehealth visits can be administered without parents present, parents are given the option to attend. If they aren’t present, the physician’s office will call the parent to share details of the exam.
Hanson reiterates that the new telehealth clinic is optional, and that parents are not required to consent to having their student treated at school. “This is an added service for families who are interested in participating,” she said.
Hanson first got the idea to bring a telehealth clinic to Greenfield-Central schools after attending a conference in December 2019.
“I met Elizabeth Sons, who works for (Managed Health Services). I was so fortunate to have been placed at an icebreaker table with her, and I was able to learn of her ability to assist schools with securing grant money and implementing telehealth programs,” she said.
Hanson visited a school that uses the program, and was impressed and excited to bring the concept to Greenfield-Central schools. “Just as we were really getting the ball rolling, along came March 2020, which put everything on hold,” she said. “Now that we have recovered from those years, we were able to get the program back into production.”
Sons, a school-based administrator for Managed Health Services, said the health insurance company has been providing funding for School Based Telehealth Clinics since 2016.
The MHS School Based Telehealth Grant covers the cost of the telehealth equipment, including warranty fees, training and assistance with marketing and education.
Sons said her company values the opportunity to help clinics provide immediate care to students where they spend the majority of their day — at school.
“Providing this care directly at school means parents are not missing unnecessary work time, traveling long distances, or waiting for a provider with other children at home, and (they) can still be involved with the process every step of the way,” she said. “Healthier students make for better learners, and MHS is honored to work with schools like Greenfield-Central School Corp. that understand and value this.”