The telemedicine program offered by CoxHealth, and recently adopted by Ava R-I, is saving time and money for families in the Ava School District. The new program allows students with minor illnesses to be seen by a nurse practitioner on-site. And, to make the process easier, CoxHealth will bill the student’s insurance company, and/or parent responsible for any co-pay. If CoxHealth is out of network a clinic discount will be applied.
The program is a win-win for parents, students, and the school district.
Jason Dial, superintendent of Ava schools, acknowledges that this is the first year of implementation for the program.
“From a district point of view, the board of education is always focused on trying to provide a healthy atmosphere for our students and staff,” Dial said. “We are excited about offering the tele-med program that can benefit our students and attempt to keep them in school.”
The telemedicine program is offered at the Ava Schools, during school hours, through CoxHealth.
“We can treat general illnesses such as pink eye, sore throat, rashes, ear infection” said Wendy Brooke, Ava Elementary Nurse. “Many children are able to remain at school after we treat them.”
The student walks into the office, and the schools’ nurses determine if the student needs a virtual appointment, or a student may request the service. The parents are notified, as they have to be present in some way, and then the student is connected with a remote provider via video who uses mobile telemedicine equipment to examine the student as if sitting in a doctor’s office.
Parents may download the Vidyo mobile app. If the parent isn’t able to physically be at school, they may use the app to connect to the video stream of the doctor’s appointment.
“So far this year we have seen six patients,” Brooke said. “The telemedicine program is just another way for us to serve our students and attempt to keep them in school.”
According to Brooke, the only challenge the school is facing with the program is getting the word out so parents are informed and ready to start utilizing the program.
“It saves the parent from missing work,” Brooke said. “They really appreciate that.”
If a student does need prescription medicine, the provider is able to call it in to the pharmacy of the parent’s choice, and the parent picks it up.
“In addition, if a family should need prescription assistance, Children’s Miracle Network at CoxHealth will help with that,” Brooke said.
Brooke noted there is virtually no wait time for the appointments.
The program is being funded by USDA and Children’s Miracle Network at CoxHealth, with Children’s Miracle Network at CoxHealth agreeing to help fund the cost of visits for children who are un-insured or underinsured.
“We don’t want to replace a child’s primary care provider,” says Tabitha Ferwalt, Virtual Visits Product Manager for CoxHealth. “Our goal is to bring care to the children and families where they are, to address acute illnesses.”
Ferwalt said Cox understands that in a rural area like Ava, access to a primary care provider can be hard to attain, especially on last minute notice. With the telemedicine program the student is able to walk in, get connected with a nurse practitioner, and receive the treatment they need.
“For a lot of parents it is a struggle to miss work and stay home with a sick child,” Ferwalt said. “With this program, parents can run to school on lunch break or connect virtually, pick up a prescription on the way home and the child may not need to miss any school, and the parents may not have to miss work.”
“We now have 31 virtual school clinics in 17 school districts, all in southwest Missouri,” Ferwalt added. The program is not only available to the students, but also to staff as well.
“It helps reduce teacher absenteeism, as well as student absenteeism, and saves the district from having to get substitutes or find last minute coverage,” Ferwalt said.
When a school implements the program, few changes have to be made, which makes the transition easier.
“We don’t replace the school nurse as they are vital to the program,” Ferwalt said. “They are the ones who identify the patient, and prep the patient for our nurse practitioner. So really, all we ask of the school, is to find us a private space where we can facilitate the visit. Then, we partner with the school nurse to make sure she identifies students who may need a visit with the nurse practitioner.”
According to Ferwalt, this year to-date in the 17 participating school districts, there have been 321 visits via telemedicine.
The first grant for the initiative came from the Missouri Foundation of Health and Children’s Miracle Network at CoxHealth; later, the second grant to expand to other schools came from the USDA, and Children’s Miracle Network at CoxHealth.
For those interested in participating, the service is voluntary but parents must have a permission slip on file for their student to be treated. Office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
For more information, people may contact Lindsey Wade 417-683-5450.