The Value of Telehealth in Schools

MUSC KidsWell equipmentVisit the school nurse’s office in Charleston Promise Neighborhood schools – Chicora, Sanders-Clyde, James Simons, Burns and Mary Ford – and you will see an odd contraption.

It is the video conferencing set-up with a stethoscope, otoscope and examination camera that you see here.

As part of MUSC’s KidsWell program in schools throughout the county, physicians are on hand one day each week to treat children who are ill or injured.

The other four days, examinations by a physician or pediatric nurse practitioner are performed through a video conferencing system known as Telehealth. It extends the reach of doctors and nurses so that children can be treated in school without forcing parents to leave work and take them home or to the doctor’s office or emergency room.

Better for Children’s Health, Attendance, Academics
Reams of research document the health and academic benefits of school-based health programs. In Title 1 schools, they provide the added benefit of access to health care without taking parents away from their jobs.

Dr. Kathryn Cristaldi, medical director of school-based programs for MUSC, says the vast majority of illnesses for which children visit the school nurse can be diagnosed via Telehealth. Upper respiratory and ear infections, rashes, sore throats, asthma and ADHD comprise the majority of complaints.

“The standard of care does not change when we use Telehealth equipment,” said Dr. Cristaldi.

Occasionally children present with acute illnesses. In those situations, a physician may be dispatched to the school.

A Life Saved by Telehealth
Dr. Cristaldi recalls one child at a Charleston Promise Neighborhood school whom she saw for an initial visit, primarily to sign up for Medicaid and complete documentation so the system could track her. Several weeks later, after two emergency room visits, the child went to the school nurse, who immediately recognized the severity of the situation and called Dr. Cristaldi.

One look through the Telehealth camera was all she needed. She had the girl rushed to the MUSC ER, where the child was diagnosed with leukemia and treated in intensive care.

“She would have died that night if we hadn’t seen her,” Dr. Cristaldi said.

KidsWell is funded by Charleston Promise Neighborhood in the five schools named above.

If your child attends a school with the KidsWell program, you need to register them. Click here to sign up your child now.

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