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Ballad Health and Lee County Public Schools partner for school-based telehealth program
Ballad Health and Lee County Public Schools are keeping children and faculty members healthier and in the classroom, courtesy of a new telehealth program.
Telemedicine enables a school nurse to use live video technology to connect students and school staff to a doctor, physician assistant or nurse practitioner from Ballad Health Medical Associates Urgent Care. The urgent care provider will have the ability to diagnose the patient and send any needed prescriptions to the pharmacy – all from the school nurse’s office.
“Technology gives us more ways to examine how we can reach into our communities and improve everyone’s quality of health,” said Debbie Voyles, Ballad Health’s corporate director of virtual health. “It’s making it possible for us to connect our patients to the right care, at the right time, in the right location.”
Ballad Health and Lee County Public Schools’ telemedicine capabilities include electronic otoscopes, so the provider can look in patients’ ears and throats, as well as electronic stethoscopes. Ballad Health has also provided the schools with testing equipment for common illnesses like strep and the flu.
"We are excited to be able to partner with Ballad Health to improve our overall service to our students, staff and community by providing a new telehealth program,” said Dr. Brian Austin, superintendent of Lee County Public Schools. “Together, we can increase the effectiveness of healthcare providers in our community who serve as our primary care physicians by quickly and efficiently addressing minor conditions such as coughs, colds and similar issues. The communication between and among Ballad Health professionals, our school nurses and our community healthcare providers will help our students' parents and caregivers address students' health needs at school with the support of additional resources after regular school hours.
“This partnership is an example of just one of the endless possibilities that exist when communities and businesses work together to serve children and their families."
To participate in the telehealth program, parents of Lee County Public Schools students can obtain an information packet, which includes consent for the virtual health provider to treat the child, privacy policies and medical history information, as well as an authorization to bill the family’s health insurance.
Parents are invited and welcome to come to the school and be present for the exam. Ballad Health’s providers will also follow up with the parent/guardian after the visit, and if children need further treatment, the school nurse will contact the family. Ballad Health will also fax a copy of the report to the patient’s primary care provider, if that information is given when his or her parent fills out the enrollment paperwork.
“At a time when it might be difficult for family members to leave work or find transportation, we will be able to assist students with their healthcare needs,” said Virginia Hall, lead nurse of Lee County Public Schools. “Telehealth will not only aid in students receiving the care they need, but also in keeping students and staff in school when they’re medically able to be here. As school nurses, we are thrilled to be partnering with Ballad Health and bringing a new level of healthcare to our community.”
Ballad Health’s school telemedicine program is currently in its third year, and it is in place at 108 schools in Tennessee and Virginia.
“Traditionally, most people say if you can’t bring a provider to an area, the patient has to travel to the provider, but that can be challenging in rural areas like Lee County,” Voyles said. “But at Ballad Health, we’re looking at how we can embrace technology to meet our patients where they are, whether it’s at home, a place in the community – or a school.”
Telemedicine is a covered benefit with most insurance providers, and it’s covered 100% under Virginia and Tennessee Medicaid. It’s billed as a primary care visit, or participants can pay a flat fee of $49. Tests, such as those for flu and strep, carry additional charges.
“With telehealth, we’re building a foundation for the future, so our communities can move from healthcare to health – and life,” Voyles said.
To learn more about Ballad Health’s school telehealth program, please visit the school virtual health clinic page.