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Georgia Expands Telehealth, Health Data Exchange in Schools

By Jennifer Bresnick

- The Georgia Partnership for TeleHealth (GPT) and the Georgia Health Information Network (GaHIN) are now able to exchange data for thousands of schoolchildren receiving telehealth services during a pilot at twelve rural schools, the two organizations announced last week.  More than 3600 healthcare providers are connected through the health information exchange, allowing school-based nurses and pediatricians to communicate more effectively and make more informed treatment decisions.

Telehealth and health information exchange

“Our Rural School-Based Telehealth Center Initiative offers a number of benefits to students and families,” said Sherrie Williams, Executive Director of GPT, a charitable nonprofit organization that promotes the expansion of remote care services across the state. “Students receive quality care without having to miss class. Parents don’t have to leave work and lose wages to take their child to see the doctor. If a specialist visit is needed, it doesn’t require hours in the car to reach a large healthcare center; the child can be examined right from the school clinic.”

Public school nurses are among those that are exempt from a clause in Georgia’s state telehealth rules that require an in-person consult to take place before a provider can refer a patient to a remote care practitioner.  The provision allows schools to engage in telehealth services that help provide more immediate treatment for students without unduly burdening parents, especially those in rural locations.  The partnership between GPT and GaHIN will ensure that patient data is available to providers wherever they are located.

“The telehealth school initiative is an important factor in equalizing the technology disparity between rural and urban areas,” added Denise Hines, Executive Director of GaHIN. “By incorporating the secure exchange of electronic health information, nurses and physicians will be able to access patient information at the time and place care is delivered, which is shown to improve the quality of care while reducing costs.”

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