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Telehealth Program Brings Video Consults to Rural NY Schools

Bassett Healthcare now has the resources and infrastructure to offer video-based telehealth consults to rural New York schoolchildren.

NY Health System has ability to offer video-based telehealth to schools

Source: Thinkstock

By Thomas Beaton

- Bassett Healthcare Network has acquired a new telehealth platform to connect with 15 school-based health centers (SBHC) to bring telehealth to students in rural New York state.

Bassett Healthcare operates six hospitals and severs 46 school districts in a 6000 square mile area. Many of the school districts in the region have faced the challenge of unreliable communication infrastructure, acting as a barrier for telemedicine access for a large pre-K to grade 12 student population.

Recognizing the value that real-time video consults, including behavioral healthcare, for this large student population, Bassett partnered with a telehealth vendor that helped provide the bandwidth and network improvements to make video consults viable.

The new telehealth program is also interoperable with the health system’s EHRs and PACS infrastructure, which allows Bassett providers to integrate telehealth service with existing workflows, cameras, and medical devices during real-time telemedicine consults. All integrated systems are available for providers to access through a centralized dashboard.

Bassett has accelerated their telehealth growth over the past years with the purpose of extending access to care. A federal grant from HHS awarded Bassett over $200,000 for up to four years to extend telehealth to 18 SBHCs in rural New York. The project provides telehealth-based primary and preventative care for asthma, diabetes, as well as behavioral healthcare, to several counties with care access issues.

“The geographic spread across the rural region Bassett serves makes it virtually impossible to effectively and efficiently meet specific health needs of the pediatric population,” said Dr. Chris Kjolhede, co-director of the Bassett School-Based Health Program. “Asthma, diabetes and behavioral health are all areas of growing need among our pediatric population, and we believe telehealth can play a critical role in addressing the need.”

Telehealth adoption in schools is the next big push in health systems attempting to alleviate care costs, and extend access to care.

There are many factors that limit the adoption of school-based telehealth, including state-level policy and learning curves care providers face when implementing telehealth. Challenges such as these lead many school-districts across the country to address their unique organizational needs when  implementing school-based telehealth.

If school systems are able to address the challenges that inhibit adoption, the results can drastically improve the quality of care for students. An example of this was a Tennessee school system that treated 84 percent of their students two days faster than without telehealth.

Many other states such as Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and Missouri are working through these challenges to provide school-based telehealth that can offer health systems improved access to care, Medicaid reimbursement for telehealth services, and improve operational efficiency.

Along with improvements in healthcare, school-based telehealth provides other forms of ROI for schools. This includes decreasing the time it takes parents who need to work to schedule doctors appointments and limiting student absences so that children can focus on improving their grades.

As schools focus on shifting to telehealth, lawmakers in the US Senate are pushing for federally supported school-based telehealth through grants to fund in-school programs, development of telehealth centers for schools, and ensured CHIP reimbursement for schools that use telehealth. 


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