Telemedicine is a technical term for a student doctor’s visit without leaving a school.
As a pilot school since early 2019, Crossroads Elementary School students have been scheduling physician visits via electronic means.
Principal Julie Wright was initially contacted by Debbie Williams in special education to see if they would be a pilot site in collaboration with Centerstone.
“Basically, the concept is that students who need to visit with a doctor for medication updates, particularly those with behavioral differences, do not have to travel to Shepherdsville in the middle of the day for an appointment with his/her doctor,” Wright explained.
Every Tuesday afternoon when school is in session, a doctor is available via a television/multimedia screen.
“A Nurse is at the school to register, take vital signs and meet with the student and his/her parent,” Wright said. “Instead of several hours of missed instruction, the students’ are out of class 15 - 20 minutes.”
Wright sees the biggest impacts as students are present for instruction, their attendance improves and provides more time for that student to be working with the teachers and instructional staff in the classroom.
“In addition, it is easier for parents to plan and ensure that a student’s medication prescription does not run out,” she said. “Many times scheduling becomes an issue when they had to travel to Shepherdsville; now, the kids are able to stay in a safe place with their parent and visit the doctor here at Crossroads.”
Courtney Potts, LPCC-S, School Based Services, Unit Manager III with Centerstone, said Crossroads was strategically selected due to its location.
“We wanted a school that was on the opposite side of town from our outpatient site,” she said. “Our goal was to be able to target more families making it more convenient for them to receive psychiatric services. We also chose this school because, location-wise, it has several other schools close in proximity that can also access these services. We are continuing to look at the possibility of increasing our Telemedicine services in the future.”
With parental consent, students in all grade levels can participate in Telemedicine.
Wright said most of the students involved are recipients of Passport or Medicaid, so no cost is associated with the visit.
“The benefits of having the Telemedicine program are overwhelming,” Wright raved. “Our Centerstone Counselor, Shannon Nilest, is on site every day. “The students who may need a referral to the doctor can receive that quickly. It benefits our students and parents by bringing the resources to them.”
Nilest, M.Ed, LPP, School Based Services, Centerstone onsite clinician for Crossroads, added that commercial insurances accepted through Centerstone cover doctor visits utilized via Telemedicine.
She agreed the referral process is quick and easy.
“Once I submit a referral to our administration team; the scheduling turn around time is less than 24 hours,” she said.
Potts agreed and added data was showing students were being removed from school for an entire day for medical appointments and not returning due to family struggles, location, resources, etc.
“This helps us keep kids in school with increased collaboration with the school personnel, therapist and psychiatrist,” she said. “They get to be involved in these appointments and offer insight.”
Nilest pointed out the importance of this benefit.
“I can step into a Telemedicine appointment with my client and family and collaborate with our psychiatrist during times of crisis and difficulties,” she said. “I have access to data and daily behavioral reports from teachers who work with the child each day. As a team, we collaborate, problem solve, and develop an intervention strategy immediately on behalf of the child.”
Telemedicine also removes all barriers for children and families to receive psychiatric services.
“For some it could be transportation, work schedules, & outpatient location. Telemedicine removes some of these barriers and reaches more students and families,” Potts said. “Our mission is keeping children in the least restrictive environment possible. Through Telemedicine we hope this is one additional service we can provide with individual, family and group therapy in the school system to make sure all children receive the services they need.”
Wright sees Telemedicine at Crossroads for many more years and hopes other schools take advantage of the service.
“We are building a community and helping ensure that our community has what they need,” she affirmed.