Whether it’s because of time or finances, sometimes it’s a challenge for parents to connect ill children with proper healthcare. That’s why, thanks to a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health, CoxHealth is bringing health care to the students. Soon, sick kids can be seen right at school via telemedicine for acute ailments such as sore throats, chronic coughs and the flu.
"Telemedicine is a growing trend, one that we've experienced great, positive growth with at CoxHealth,” says Bridget Ohara, manager of DirectConnect, CoxHealth’s telemedicine program. “We're excited that we can help bring this technology to local schools to help students."
Over a three-year period, CoxHealth will place mobile telehealth carts in six elementary schools – Cassville, Forsyth, Monett, Mountain Grove, Ozark and Reeds Spring – across six counties in order to connect select children with providers via telemedicine. The providers include nurse practitioners aboard the CARE Mobile, a mobile pediatric clinic, sponsored by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Parents will be able to participate in the visit either in person, or by phone or video using a smartphone (or other video-enabled device) without having to leave work or home.
The service is voluntary, and is completely free while this method of healthcare is piloted. If a diagnosis is made, prescriptions will be sent to each family’s preferred pharmacy. CoxHealth has plans to partner with other agencies to provide financial support for medications for those in need.
The new program is something area schools are eagerly anticipating.
“One of the main causes for absenteeism for younger students is acute illness,” says Michael Mason, superintendent at Reeds Spring R-IV school district. “The act of bringing telemedicine to local schools is an effort to try and bridge a need with a solution.”
“Keeping kids in school is always a priority for us, and this initiative is a way to help make that happen,” says Dr. Kim Fitzpatrick, principal with the Ozark R-VI school district. “We see a great number of kids who become ill and are often absent because of illness, so we believe these efforts will help these children not only stay in school, but also help their overall wellbeing.”
This program is currently being introduced to communities, and kids will gradually begin being seen during the 2017 spring semester. However, things won’t be completely in full swing until the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. Over time, this grant will also allow CoxHealth to offer specialty care, behavioral health and family practice.