Telehealth technology connects elementary school students to doctors online

Elementary school students, doctors connect online via telehealth technology

PEKIN, IN (WAVE) - If you’ve got a sick kid at school, you may not have to leave work. A new telehealth program provides a tool to schools, letting doctors and nurses diagnose sick children in some cases from the school.

Inside East Washington Elementary School, students here stay busy working on their writing. While most of the school spends the day learning, school nurse Amy Green says each day she sees about 40 to 50 kids in her office.

“Some come for medications, some for bumps and bruises, some your typical belly aches,” Green said.

If they need to see a doctor, it means pulling that child out of class for much of the day to get there. But that’s all changing.

New specialized cameras and equipment bring the doctor’s office to schools, using cameras to check for rashes, sore throat, even ear infections.

By using this new telehealth technology, they can connect students at East Washington Elementary with a qualified doctor or nurse on the other end. This new technology lets kids get checked out by a professional without inconveniencing parents by having them take off work so they can come to the school.

“I will appear on this side of the screen, she will have the vital signs, everything, all the patient information in there,” Lindsey Brough, family nurse practitioner at St. Vincent Salem Pediatrics, said.

Sick students can be seen in 30 minutes to an hour, with parent approval. Images and video are used to diagnose children the same way doctors would in person.

“We can log into Lindsey, she can give an official diagnosis. If they’re not contagious, they’d be able to go back to the classroom. Parents wouldn’t even have to miss work or take off,” Green said. “If they are contagious, she can get their prescription sent in and parents can pick that up at the pharmacy, pick them up, go home and they’re ready to relax for the day.”

Brough added: “If he [a student] was a patient that had an ear infection, I would send a prescription in and Amy would contact the parent.”

“We do have parents that are looking forward to getting this set up and in use,” Green said.

Parents will have to consent on an annual basis to the telehealth visits through St. Vincent in Salem and will be contacted before any telehealth visit with their child is conducted.

These new tools can’t diagnose everything, but they can help.

“This is just to help bridge the gap, help keep them in the classroom as much as possible,” Brough said.

Green added: “New technology is amazing that we’re able to do this without having to actually go to the office.”

In a rural area, she said, this can help ensure that their students have access to quality medical care.

The telehealth technology is paid for through a grant with the Indiana Rural Health Association. The grant funding has paid for telehealth systems in three Washington County schools and 16 schools statewide.

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