- The Nemours Children’s Health System has launched its first school telehealth program, and officials expect many more partnerships to follow.
The national healthcare network, with hospitals and clinics in Florida, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, recently went live with a platform at Morning State Catholic School, a school for special needs students in Orlando.
Armed with a Microsoft Surface tablet and an American Well app (branded as Nemours CareConnect), school nurses can connect by video with Nemours pediatricians within minutes for real-time student exams.
“We’re helping the school’s nurses provide a higher level of care,” says Shayan Vyas, MD, the medical director for Nemours’ Florida telehealth operations. “They’re limited in what they can do, so anything we can do to help them is a huge bonus.”
Nemours joins a growing number of health systems and telehealth providers who are partnering with school districts to offer virtual visits and other healthcare services. Just this week, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and that state’s Department of Education announced a three-year project, funded by a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to connect schools in four rural districts t a telehealth platform.
“We’ll try different kinds of methodologies and hopefully we can help them just by technology and have it creating access to services for the students,” Tina Benton, with the UAMS Center for Distance Health, told Arkansas Public Radio. “I think we’ll be measuring how much time the child is back in the seat in their school.”
Nemours, which earlier this year joined American Well’s new consumer marketplace, dubbed “The Exchange,” sees school-based platforms as an effective means of dealing with daily health concerns that would otherwise result in a trip to the doctor’s office or even the hospital. The service is especially helpful to working families who would have trouble fitting such visits into a typical day.
“The workflow for everyday moms and dads is ambitious,” says Vyas, who notes the Nemours platform allows parents – who are contacted before the visit - to connect remotely on a mobile device to take part in the telehealth encounter. “We’re saying, why don’t we triage what we need to address today and keep that child in school.”
An added benefit to this program is the pharmacy across the street from the school. Vyas says Nemours can conduct the telehealth visit with the child at the school, call in any prescriptions to the pharmacy and have them deliver the medications to the school before the end of the day.
“Not only is the child getting a diagnosis, but in some cases the treatments are already starting,” he notes.
In addition, the telehealth encounter and diagnosis are entered into the child’s electronic medical record, which Nemours can access during the visit, and a transcript is sent to the family’s primary care provider.
“Coordination is very important,” Vyas says. “We want to make sure we’re not interrupting the existing medical home.”
Nemours launched its consumer-facing CareConnect platform in November 2015, and now offers 24/7 telehealth access in Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania (the service is available in Delaware on weeknights, weekends and holidays) for $49. Vyas says the health system is working with the Nemours Foundation and other agencies to make the service affordable for schools.
“There’s not one district in Florida that has a nurse in every school,” he notes. “And we have not experienced a wealthy school district.”
Vyas says Nemours’ “ambitions are to go into as many schools as possible,” and the health system has planned pilots to address, among other things, chronic care and specialist services.