DCSD board approves internet-based medical pilot program

By Melissa Rollins, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

During the regular October meeting of the Darlington County Board of Education, boardmembers voted to approve a telehealth pilot program in the district. Chuck Miller, Director of the district’s adult education program, had introduced the concept during the board’s September meeting.

“Telehealth will allow us to greatly increase the services we provide to our students in the healthrooms in all the schools, Miller told the board. “Telehealth is a state funded school-based health program coordinated by the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance and housed at MUSC. It is approved by the South Carolina Department of Education.”

Miller explained to the board how to program works.

“Telehealth is an internet-based medical cart,” Miller said. “When a student goes to the healthroom, at the point that a nurse has done all he or she can, they can dial up to a doctor’s office. The doctor has equipment through which they can see through a videoconference and diagnose a student in the healthroom at the school. It literally puts the services of a pediatrician in every school that had Telehealth equipment installed.”

Acting Superintendent Bill Boyd and other members of DCSD administration met with representatives of the program to get an understanding of what the program is and how it could be used in the district.

“Last year, Telehealth representatives came and spoke to our nurses,” Miller said. “That is when interest was first peaked. We have met several times this year…to discuss what benefits it could have for all of our schools.”
While a doctor is on the other end of the video conference call, the school nurse stays with the child and offers any assistance that is necessary.

“There are three parties are involved any time a Telehealth visit happens in a school,” Miller said. “There is the school nurse who evaluates the child, Telehealth and then the pediatrician. The pediatrician is on-call through Telehealth and can diagnose and evaluate a child remotely. They can write a prescription or pass that information on to the child’s primary care physician. Our district would not contract with any local medicial providers unless we chose to. We would initiate an MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) with the Telehealth group at MUSC and they would in turn coordinate with the doctors. At this point, Dr. Morphis Pediatrics in Hartsville has agreed to provide services for the pilot program if you approve; this would not preclude any other provides from participating in the future if the program is fully developed district-wide.”

Just as is necessary for other programs in the district, parents would have to give permission for their child to participate.

Dr. Kathryn Cristaldi with the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance at MUSC provided more information about the specific reasons a child might use the telehealth service.

“The program really seeks to connect local providers whenever possible to schools in order to increase access to care for children, particularly in rural and underserved areas,” Cristaldi said. “Providers use video conferencing software similar to FaceTime or Skype that is secure and cannot be hacked into so all the information is safe and secure. In addition, we use electronic stethoscopes, otoscopes and exam cameras that allow the provider on the other end to do a full exam on the child.”

Not all illnesses are appropriate for a Telehealth visit but many are.

“We typically use this to treat common, acute illnesses of childhood, rashes, sore throat, ear infections, or to help manage chronic diseases for children who have difficulty getting in to their primary care doctor,” Cristaldi said. “Those would include things like asthma and ADHD.”

Miller said that the hope is to begin the pilot program in Spring 2018 with three to five elementary schools in the Hartsville and Lamar service areas, with Pate Elementary in Darlington also an option.

Author: Duane Childers

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