Telemedicine has made its way into the school, where it has revolutionized children’s access to primary or specialized clinical care. Telehealth programs have shown great success in school because they solve the two greatest healthcare challenges: lack of access and inconvenience.
Each time a child gets sick in school, their parents must leave work and take them to a pediatrician (or another specialist) – if they can get an appointment. Considering that children under 15 years old visit medical facilities over 70 million times a year, this creates major inconvenience to both parent and child.
Even worse, many children don’t receive consistent medical care because of various challenges: logistical hitches, overburdened parents, lack of insurance, economic hardships, etc. A school-based intervention may be the only way for these children to receive primary and specialized care as soon as they need it.
Telehealth is now bringing these solutions to those who need it most: our young ones. Here’s 8 ways school-based telemedicine helps children and their caregivers.
1. Children Can Readily Access Acute Care
Through telemedicine, school-based health clinics (SBHCs) can address students’ acute care needs. A distant healthcare provider can access and diagnose a child’s condition, write prescriptions, and recommend treatment/testing regimens. This decreases the patient load in the surrounding hospitals’ ER departments.
Telemedicine is especially useful for children with chronic or specialized healthcare needs. Such children need frequent medical attention, and they can see their specialized providers without shouldering the logistical/transportation strain. They will only go to them when completely necessary.
2. Better Management of Children with Chronic Diseases
One of the barriers to positive prognosis of children with chronic health conditions is the lack of access to frequent care. There are budding success stories about telehealth diabetes management programs that assist children with Type 1 diabetes to manage their condition and receive specialist care.
These consultations are powered by remote monitoring equipment, document cameras, web cameras, and specialized telemedicine software. The school nurse and learner meet the specialist virtually every month to discuss the child’s progress, review lab results, and adjust treatment plans accordingly. The result is fewer ER visits and hospitalizations and fewer acute illness incidents for the child.
3. Children Can Access Behavioral and Mental Health Support
Increasingly, parents, school nurses, and teachers report the rising number of children facing behavioral challenges and mental health issues. However, the right care and support framework is out of reach for many children and parents. Such children may only receive care when their situations escalate towards depression, suicide, mental breakdowns, or aggressive/disruptive tendencies.
Telemedicine makes it possible for students who need behavioral or mental health treatments to receive these services early, increasing their quality of life and decreasing adverse outcomes.
4. Increased Capacity of Existing School-Based Health Services
Telemedicine builds on the services offered by SBHCs, providing advanced/specialized care to increase the value of care for children. For example, suppose a child receiving primary care needs specialized consultation. In that case, they can get it right away, instead of waiting long hours or days for an appointment, taking time from school (and a guardian from work), and traveling to the specialist’s location.
There’s only so far an SBHC can reach in providing medical service to learners. Still, telehealth increases the speed and convenience of additional services that a learner may need while in school. The entire school district is thus able to meet the health needs of all their children.
5. Greater Health Awareness and Education for Children
Telemedicine can also provide healthcare educational resources to schools that could not access these resources otherwise. Children can benefit equally from programs that are run hundreds and thousands of miles away from their locale and become more aware of their bodies and how they should take care of themselves.
The access to such programs means that schools and SBHCs don’t have to reinvent the wheel – children can use the available resources at marginal or no cost to achieve the same end as they would running a parallel health education program.
6. More Children Stay in School (and their Parents at Work)
When a child falls sick at school, the prevailing practice is to call their parent/guardian to pick them up. However, the increased capacity of SBHCs and availability of specialized consultations means that children who are not seriously sick can get immediate care and stay in school.
The often-forgotten impact of sending a child home is the disruption of their parent’s work. Most families with employed parents plan their schedules around a complete school day. The parent may not always get benevolent leave from work, which disrupts the entire family’s income.
7. Better Education, Training, and Support for SBHC Staff
Apart from the ongoing experience that SBHC staff get while attending to patients under the guidance of a specialist, telemedicine programs offer active educational and training opportunities for the staff. They can learn more to support obesity prevention programs, mental and behavioral health, nutrition counseling, and other clinical practices.
Children directly benefit from the increased knowledge and skills of their care providers. They will be able to detect danger signs earlier (being constantly near the child) and will have a greater capacity to serve every child they treat. This decreases the need for urgent interventions because illnesses have gotten out of control.
8. Greater Parental Satisfaction Leads to Healthier Children
In addition to the benefit of fewer disruptions from work, which improves the family finances, parents have greater peace of mind knowing that their child receives timely and appropriate care when needed at all times.
Most parents report that they are satisfied with the process and outcomes of their children’s telehealth visits and would continue using them. More importantly, parents who, for any reason, cannot provide comprehensive health support for their children will now rest easy, knowing that their children’s wellbeing is addressed in school.
Telemedicine: The Future of School-Based Medicine
Telemedicine in schools has brought specialized and timely healthcare interventions to all children. Leveraging technology to advance the quality of and increase access to healthcare services has a ripple effect on all involved – students, teachers, healthcare staff, parents, and even school district management.
The potential of telemedicine to reduce ER visits can reduce the overall cost to the entire healthcare system – which is great news for local, state, and federal governments. ESE Telehealth offers safe and secure telemedicine programs for schools and school districts, offering premium-grade healthcare at decreased administrative burden.
Ready to start. Find out more about ESE Telehealth for Schools.