With flu season in full swing, lines are likely forming at many doctors’ offices with children exhibiting various cold and flu-like symptoms. It’s really no surprise, considering the time they spend in the human-sized petri dishes that are classrooms and school buses. While parents tend to do whatever they can to manage the well-being of their children, it often comes at a cost, including having to take time away from work.
The good news is a growing number of schools feature School Based Health Centers (SBHCs), which are staffed by nurse practitioners and allow students to receive a certain level of healthcare right at school. Some of them have taken their capabilities to the next level by adding connected health capabilities, enabling nurse practitioners to set up and facilitate virtual visits with physicians to increase the breadth of care that can be administered directly from the schools – all year, not just during the winter months.
With a secure, encrypted, HIPAA-compliant connected health system in place, the process works something like this. A student who feels ill goes to the school clinic, where the staff collect details and perform an immediate diagnosis to determine if a virtual visit with a physician is required. If it is, parents are notified and invited to join, and the physician is able to virtually examine the patient using connected cameras and other devices with the assistance of the nurse practitioner. At that point, a determination can be made as to whether the student may stay in school or should be sent home and, if necessary, prescriptions can be sent to the family’s pharmacy by the physician. All information and data from the virtual visit is appended to the patient’s EHR.
A connected health solution allows school nurses and nurse practitioners to treat students more effectively and efficiently, including getting advice from family physicians or even specialists if needed. Connected health solutions enable them to diagnose much more than a traditional school nurse would, eliminating the need for scheduling visits to physicians’ offices – which also frees up more of the physicians’ time to see in-office patients.
For students, being able to visit a SBHC mean would mean less time away from the classroom and ultimately missing less work. It also means fewer students are sent home as a precaution until they are able to see a doctor. Parents do not have to immediately worry about taking time from work to pick up children from school, then more time for doctors’ visits. The entire connected health system works to bring doctors and patients closer through virtual visits in a much more convenient manner.
The ability to deliver care from SBHCs adds balance to healthcare delivery by making the same care available to all students, regardless of socioeconomic, geographic, or other factors. Connected health can bring physicians to patients that otherwise may not have access to the same level of expertise simply due to a shortage of healthcare professionals in under-served areas, which also serves to address population health concerns.
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