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Kingsport school officials working to raise awareness of system's telemedicine program

July 8th, 2014 12:41 am by Rick Wagner

Kingsport school officials working to raise awareness of system's telemedicine program

KINGSPORT — City school system officials are hoping promotion and marketing will help increase awareness of and participation in a school telemedicine program entering its second year.

The Board of Education at its July 3 meeting voted 4-0 with one absent to approve a memorandum of understanding between KCS and Integrated Care Professionals (ICP) for telemedicine services for the 2014-15 school year.

Vicki Johnston, nursing supervisor for KCS, said the agreement was identical to the MOU approved and used for 2013-14 with Holston Medical Group.

She said HMG chose to withdraw from that MOU in April and that IntegrateMD, which leased the telemedicine equipment to HMG, has the sister organization called ICP that will oversee the same nurse practitioner HMG used.

In the program, students can receive medical treatment and prescriptions from a nurse practitioner, either in person or via a high-speed Internet connection.

Johnston said the first school year of telemedicine, the 2012-13 term, drew 183 student visits systemwide, which at that time included the city's two middle schools and high school.

However, because of the timing of the program last year, it wasn't promoted in back-to-school events, and Johnston said she believes some parents were unaware of the program or forgot about it.

Johnston said in talking with officials in Sevier County, which has had the program a while, she was told it would take three to five years for the program to catch on through increased awareness and to build up volume. Johnston said that in its third through fifth years, the Sevier County system often got 50 to 60 students a day.

This fall, the program will expand to all the system's elementary schools.

Jenny Height, the pediatric nurse practitioner for the program under HMG, will continue for the 2014-15 school year with ICP, Johnston said.

"The school nurses will continue to facilitate each one of the visits," Johnston said. She said the nurses would take basic vital signs and then determine if a student could return to class or needs to receive medical care, and if so, could the nurse practitioner provide the care at school?

Parents are contacted and told their child is in need of medical treatment and asked permission for it to be provided at the school. Johnston said options include the parent being able to come to school during the treatment or to come and pick up the student and go to a physician of his or her choice.

She said mental health issues are among those that cannot be handled via telemedicine.

Advantages to the school system include keeping students in school rather than missing class for doctor visits and having care available for teachers and staff.

ICP is paid through health insurance coverage.

"We ended up with a five- to 10-minute turnaround" with students, Johnston said.

Another option is for a parent to take a student to another location in the school system for a one-on-one visit with the nurse practitioner.

The school system is out no money or expenses other than providing the area for the nurse practitioner, privacy for the student and Internet access.

Of parents approving the care, Johnston said most choose to be notified of the visit's outcome rather than come to school for the in-person or virtual visit.

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