Innovative Healthcare for Local Students

Story by: Jennifer Glover-HawkinsCooperative Health

In the 1960s, The Jetsons flew into America’s living rooms through television. The futuristic concepts the show displayed, such as flying cars, ignited imaginations everywhere as to what is possible in the decades to come. Now, it’s 2020, and while cars are still grounded by four wheels, health care is benefitting from a space age concept–-the emergence of telehealth in schools.

The Fairfield County School District Telehealth Initiative is a partnership with Cooperative Health and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), which provides the technology and technical support to the district. Students in Fairfield County School District can now have an interactive two-way conversation with a health care provider through television – the same medium that brought us The Jetsons.

For example, a child at school complains about a sore throat. Traditionally, the child is sent home. Their parent(s) would eave work to pick them up. Then, they go to the local doctor’s office and finally pick up a prescription. Productivity is lost both in the classroom and the workplace.

Instead, that same child could be referred by the school nurse for a telehealth consultation from a provider at Cooperative Health. Using videoconferencing, Cooperative Health providers examine the child through interactive conversations, special stethoscopes, and cameras with assistance from the school nurse. Afterwards, the doctor issues a diagnosis and--if necessary--a prescription. Through telehealth technology, the doctor also determines if the child is well enough to resume classes.

The telehealth consults are covered by South Carolina Medicaid and most private insurance plans. Parents must sign a consent form for their child to utilize the district’s telehealth services.

“By using telehealth services, students are able to increase seat time and meet their instructional goals. Telehealth eliminates barriers for parents that may not be able to get off work or physically take their child to be seen in an office after school. We highly encourage parents to sign up for this service,” said Dr. Tammy Martin, Principal of Fairfield Elementary School.

The presence of telehealth at both Fairfield Elementary School and the McCrorey Liston School of Technology helps provide healthcare to children who otherwise wouldn’t receive it. Fairfield Superintendent, Dr. J.R. Green believes the initiative is beneficial to the district and could expand it to other schools.

“Research confirms an extremely strong correlation between attendance and academic success. The telehealth initiative assists families in securing medical attention for students without requiring that parents are absent from work or students miss class time to see a medical professional. We are excited about the prospect of extending this opportunity to all Fairfield County District students,” Dr. Green said.

“School-based telehealth increases access to care in rural areas by allowing the child to be seen by a licensed health care provider via technology while the child is at school,” said Lynne Douglass, DNP, from Cooperative Health (formally known as Eau Claire Cooperative), the state’s largest community health center system.

School-based telehealth is exploding across the state with 21 of the 46 counties having at least one school utilizing the service. In January, Kelli Garber, MSN, the lead nurse practitioner for school-based telehealth at MUSC, gave a presentation to the faculty at Fairfield Elementary School. She explained then that telehealth can treat common childhood illnesses such as sore throat, allergies, pink eye, and chronic conditions, including asthma. In addition, the school nurse can access a medicine cart to administer over-the-counter medication in consultation with the provider.

“We are so excited to participate in bringing school based telehealth to Fairfield County Schools! School based telehealth allows a child to be seen by a nurse practitioner or physician right from the school nurse’s office through technology. It has been proven that healthy children are better able to focus and learn,” said Garber.

Fairfield County School District Telehealth Initiative

Providers from Cooperative Health:

• Eric Schlueter

• Ever Collier

• Lynn Douglass

• Sabrina Blocker