CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The way healthcare systems operate inside schools is changing.
Over the last few years MUSC has implemented Telehealth systems in more than 20 Charleston County School District schools.
“We see them for injuries, and we see them for conditions that they've got fever or they're sick and they need to be seen by a physician,” Mary Ford Nurse Charlene Barbot said.
The technology bridges the gap between school nurses and MUSC providers and eliminates the need to unnecessarily make a trip to the emergency room.
“The reason this is helpful, is that we're able to connect with MUSC within 15 minutes and have a nurse practitioner or pediatrician on the screen, they can see these children, and diagnose,” Barbot said.
Once a diagnosis is made, the medication will be sent to a pharmacy and delivered to the school, so the students get a treatment immediately.
“Benefits of the school-based telehealth program include missed work time for parents reduced missed class time for children, and overall increased access to healthcare. We’re also hoping to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits,” Elana Wells said. Wells is the school based health manager for Telehealth.
Barbot takes care of these kids daily and said she hears about the challenge’s parents face when it comes to getting their child to a doctor’s office.
“Whether it's because of work situations or whether it's because of transportation our families have,” Barbot said. “We have many families that have transportation challenges.”
Barbot said the Telehealth visit is covered by Medicaid and is not to replace the primary care provider, but to support that. If a student has insurance that will be charged as well. There are also local partnerships that assist in paying for it.
“As far as sick visits we see a lot of asthma at the very beginning the year just to get them prepared for the school year it's not necessarily that they're sick, but we need to make sure that they have the needed medicines in case they get sick.” School-based Telehealth nurse Stephanie Merrell said. “And then of course there's flu season, allergies are really bad.”
Barbot said students have been coming in recently with asthma issues and had there not been a provider available though Telehealth the child would have had to go to the emergency room.
“We have had several children that have come in in acute distress and one last week that really could not cannot breathe and had we not been able to utilize the service, I would have had to call the EMS and activate EMS for this child,” Barbot said.
“So, we’re not in emergency or urgent care. However, there are times that nurse is able to contact us and get medication that could be lifesaving rather than sending them to the ER,” Merrell said.