After a successful telemedicine program pilot in 27 schools last year, Children’s Health will soon deploy telehealth in 57 schools across Dallas, Grayson, Collin and Tarrant counties,Dallas Business Journalreports. The school-based telehealth program will include lab consultations, providing nurses the ability to conduct strep and flu tests. The program makes Children’s Health the only North Texas health care system providingtelemedicineto local schools.
How It Works
The program was funded last year by the Medicaid 1115 waiver, which funds experimental, pilot or demonstration projects that promote Medicaid and CHIP. For the program, school nurses connect with Children’s physicians for a virtual patient consultation lasting about 15 to 20 minutes. All of the necessary equipment is provided on a system that resembles a hospitals’ cart of wheels equipped with stethoscopes, ear, nose and throat scopes and derma scopes.
The nurse begins the virtual consultation by taking the child’s vitals before connecting to the physician. Once the virtual consultation starts, the physician will instruct the nurse to use the tools provided by the system, which have video and photo capabilities. From Children’s Health Pediatric Group clinics, physicians can then diagnose common illnesses and send prescriptions to the child’s preferred pharmacy.
“Many times, (nurses’) hands have been tied, so their scope is very narrow,” said Hall-Barrow, senior director of health care innovation and telemedicine toDallas Business Journal. “But with access to physicians, it makes her say this is eligible for telemedicine.”
Telehealth Regulatory Hurdles
To overcome the telehealth regulatory hurdles, Children’s Health worked with state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg and state Sen. Van Taylor to draft and pass House Bill 1878 allowing Children’s Health to bill school patients using the telehealth program. The bill took about two years to get approval and goes into effect September 1.