Telemedicine program in 2nd year at Cassville schools Posted October 4, 2018 by Brandi VanAntwerp

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By Jordan Privett jprivett@cassville-democrat.com

Onsite health care provides wellness atmosphere for local schools

The telemedicine program offered by CoxHealth is saving time and money for families in Cassville, as it allows students with minor illnesses to be seen by a nurse practitioner onsite, at no cost.

Richard Asbill, Cassville school district superintendent, said last year was the full implementation year for the program.

“From a district point of view, the board of education is very focused on trying to provide a wellness atmosphere, and a healthy atmosphere,” Asbill said. “We are excited about offering the tele-med program, as well as, the Mercy program to our parents, students and employees, and to just do our part for the community, by providing a first-class educational program. It is rare that a school district has one clinic, and so we are privileged to have not only Mercy, but also Cox who host clinics in our school district.”

The telemedicine program is offered at the Cassville school, during school time hours, through CoxHealth.

“We can treat things like pink eye, sore throat and rashes,” said Bobbi Blankenship, Cassville schools health services coordinator. “Many of those 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 the student requests it. The parents are notified, as they have to be present in some way, and the student is connected with a remote provider via video using the mobile telemedicine equipment to examine the students as if they were sitting in a doctor’s office.

Parents can download the Vidyo mobile app, and if the parent isn’t able to physically be at the school, they can use the app to connect to the video stream of the doctor’s appointment.

“Last year, we were able to see 164 patients,” Blankenship said. “And 103 of them were able to stay in school. The telemedicine program is just wonderful, and when people are able to use the program, they just say, ‘Wow.’”

According to Blankenship, the only challenge the school is facing with the program is getting the word out so people know about it and really start utilizing it.

“It really saves the parent from missing work,” Blankenship said. “They really appreciate that.”

If the student does need prescription medicine, the provider is able to call it in to the pharmacy of the parent’s choice, and the parent can just pick it up.

“If they need prescription assistance, Children’s Miracle Network at CoxHealth will help the family with that,” Blankenship said.

According to Blankenship, there are virtually no wait times for the appointments.

The program is funded by Missouri Foundation of Health, and Children’s Miracle Network at CoxHealth. It is a grant program that CoxHealth received, and allows Cox to do the visits from the school, with no cost to the parents.

It is a three-year grant, which ends in October 2019.

“At that point, the program will still stay at the school,” said Tabitha Ferwalt, virtual visit product manager, at CoxHealth. “However, we will start billing insurance for the visits at that time, and parents would be responsible for whatever their normal co-pay would be.”

According to Ferwalt, CoxHealth will continue to treat children who are un-insured or under-insured. Because of the generosity of the Children’s Miracle Network at CoxHealth, even after the grant has expired, Children Miracle Network at CoxHealth has agreed to help fund the cost of the visits for the children who are un-insured or under-insured.

“We don’t want to replace a child’s primary care provider,” Ferwalt said. “Our goal is to bring care to the children and the families where they are, for acute illnesses.”

Ferwalt said Cox knows for a rural area like Cassville, access to a primary care provider can be hard to get, especially on a last minute notice. With the telemedicine program the student is able to walk in, get connected with a nurse practitioner and get the treatment they need.

“For a lot of parents it is a struggle to miss work and stay home with a sick kid,” Ferwalt said. “With this program, the parents can run to the school on their lunch break or connect virtually, pick up the prescription on their way home and their child may not have needed to miss any school, or the parents miss work.”

Last year, six schools in southwest Missouri implemented the telemedicine program, including Cassville, Forsyth, Monett, Mountain Grove, Ozark and Reeds Spring schools.

“We now have 31 virtual school clinics all in southwest Missouri,” Ferwalt said. “We launched at the other schools just this last month.”

According to Ferwalt, many of the schools that now offer the telemedicine program, have specifically asked Cox for the program.

“They approached us,” Ferwalt said. “We were able to find grant funding to be able to purchase equipment, and get them the staff to be able to bring the program into their schools.”

The program is not only available to the students, but also, to the 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, not a lot of changes have to be made, which make it easier to transition.

“We don’t replace the school nurse, they are still 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 a space for us that is private, and we can do the visit. Then we partner with the school nurse to make sure she identifies students that may need a visit with the nurse practitioner.”

According to Ferwalt, last year with the six school districts participating, there were 701 visits via telemedicine, and 43 percent of those students were able to stay in school. This year, with 31 district participating in the program, there have been 112 visits so far.

The first grant, came from the Missouri foundation of health and the Children’s Miracle Network at CoxHealth, and the second grant, to expand to the other schools came from the USDA, and Children’s Miracle Network at CoxHealth.

The service is voluntary, and 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 Bobbi Blankenship, RN, at 417-847-4040.