Most students in the US are going back to school this week or next for the start of another year of learning with teachers, friends, homeroom and recess.
For many students in rural areas, good healthcare is not always easy to access. Parents are often working full-time and when it takes 45 minutes to an hour to get to a hospital or doctor’s office, finding the time is often so difficult than many simply don’t do it. Consequently, many students don’t end up receiving the medical attention they need.
That’s why school-based telemedicine programs – where students can have appointments with doctors who are in other locations from right inside their school building during the school day– are spreading across the country and showing successful outcomes. One such program is right here in the western part of North Carolina.
MY Health-e-Schools is a program started by Steve North in 2011, a family physician who saw the need for better healthcare access for kids in Mitchell and Yancey counties in western North Carolina.
So how does a telemedicine program like MY Health-e-Schools work?
At the beginning of each year parents can sign consent forms enrolling students in MY Health-e-Schools, which allows students to be seen during the school day by the remotely located Nurse Practitioners or Physicians. Parents, teachers, or the students themselves can then make appointments for the student to be seen for anything from a cold to potential symptoms of ADHD.
Many things can be done at that appointment, and for more serious conditions or when things like lab work or further tests are needed, students are referred to a hospital or other local doctor.
This year MY Health-e-Schools is expanding into schools in McDowell County as well, and its continued funding and recognition, such as receiving the ATA’s President’s Award for Health Delivery Quality and Innovation, show that even in its 3rd full year of operation, it is still in the early stages of what a program like this could become and the impact it could have.
MY Health-e-Schools is now the largest program and part of North’s nonprofit organization, the Center for Rural Health Innovation.
Steve North started research into telemedicine programs during his time as a Bernstein Fellow, and continued on to build a program that now allows over 8,000 students in 21 elementary, middle and high schools in Mitchell and Yancey and now McDowell counties to have access to trained medical providers and quality healthcare during the school day.
What other areas might school-based telemedicine programs impact, and how can we continue to find innovative solutions to bettering healthcare access for everyone, no matter where they live?