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SSISD To Offer Telemedicine Services For Students

Sulphur Springs Independent School District will soon be offering telemedicine services for students. District trustees this week gave approval to the proposal to utilize Hazel Health telemedicine services at no cost to the district and, at least initially, no out-of- pocket cost to students.

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SSISD Assistant Superintendent Kristin Monk explained that Hazel Health is currently working with funding sources to cover copays and fees of that nature for the program this semester. A small copay fee could be charged for use of the telemedicine service in the fall semester, but those details have yet to be worked out. Typically, there is a $20 copay charge to students without insurance or Medicaid per service. Families would only be charged what their typical copayment amount is for service.

Parents will be given the opportunity to opt in or opt out of the telemedicine program, with information available in English or Spanish, electronic or paper.

“Current health data shows districts that they are currently working in already show a 97 percent participation rate because it is a very valuable service,” Monk said.

Hazel Health works closely with school nurses, providing campus clinics with an iPad to access the service and an iPod Touch for nurses to use to input of the students’ patient information. Hazel Health will also provide each campus clinic with a medicine cabinet the size of a small file cabinet stocked with 12 kinds of over the counter medications and supplies, like lice shampoo and hair combs, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen and acetaminophen as appropriate. Nine of the 12 items the district currently stocks and provides, so receiving the medicine cabinet would be a savings to the district of those medication fees, Monk noted. These OTC medications would be offered free to students if the medical professional recommends them, which would assist the student with medication until the parent is able to get their child to their primary care physician if a visit is recommended.

All providers within the Hazel Health system are medical providers licensed in the state of Texas and will be Texas medical doctors, nurse practitioners and physicians assistants. The medical professionals will not issue a prescription if a student needs ADHD medication, but can help connect them with a provider if their prescription has expired. Hazel Health staff can issue a prescription for an EpiPen or inhaler if the student’s has expired or been exhausted.

SSISD Board of Trustees member Robbin Vaughn, who serves on the School Health Advisory Committee, sat in recently on a presentation made to the SHAC regarding the program. She said she was very impressed and excited by it, and believes it is going to be good for the district to be able to offer the telemedicine service.

“To know that you have a student that’s not feeling well at school, the nurse can initiate that and get that student seen immediately and get for them and not have to wait for the parent to come get them if the parent can’t get away. It just shortens the time that child has to not feel well and not be seen,” Vaughn said. “I can’t believe we haven’t done this before.”

Monk noted it can be a time saver for working parents as well. For instance, Monk said, a kindergarten student is suspected to have pink eye. Currently, the parents would be contacted, have to stop everything, go pick up their child and take the child to the doctor, then get the child’s prescription filled if the student needs one. A parent who opts to allow their student to use telemedicine would likely be able to cut out the step of taking the child to the doctor to await an appointment. The child could be seen immediately by a Hazel Health professional, and if the child did have pink eye, the medical provider could call in a prescription to the family’s pharmacist. The parent would only need to pick up the child and stop by the pharmacy to get the child’s medication on the way home.

Assistant Superintendent Josh Williams has been working on a memorandum of understanding with Hazel Health. SSISD staff have been working closely with the Hazel Health representatives to work out specifics needed for the sessions, which would be initiated by a nurse or counselor or the nurse is already engaged in assisting a student, the campus CIS worker will also be trained to do so. The district will have the option at any time to discontinue use of Hazel Health telemedicine services if they are not satisfied with the service or decide it is not a good fit for the district.

The service will also be available to the SSISD Virtual Academy students from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the school week. For instance, if a VA student wakes up in the middle of the night or school morning, the parent can dial in and talk to a doctor or other medical professional. Those who will need to miss their class time due to illness will be given a doctor’s excuse from the Hazel Health professional, just as they would from their primary care physician. Any referrals would be to the student’s physician.

Information regarding the availability of the program is expected to be distributed to parents during a two-week campaign launched by the school, which will be followed by a campus campaign.

Sulphur springs ISD Board of Trustees meeting

Author: Faith Huffman

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