Telemedicine offers parents and their pediatricians a new tool to keep children from having to go to the emergency room for routine care. This fall, five telemedicine clinics will open in Hamilton County schools as a result of a partnership between the Pediatric Health Improvement Coalition, Hamilton County Department of Education, and Children’s Hospital at Erlanger.
Trenton is in second grade at Orchard Knob Elementary School. His mom, Kristeen Brumfield, is a fourth grade teacher at the same school. If Trenton gets sick she has a hard time leaving her students to take him to the pediatrician. “He always seems to get sick at 2:30 in the afternoon," said Ms. Brumfield. "By that time you can’t get in to see the doctor, so your choices are an urgent care clinic or the emergency room. They don’t know him there. Nurse Regina sees him at school every day. She knows what’s normal for him, and he’s comfortable with her.”
Orchard Knob is one of five elementary schools in Hamilton County that will be using telemedicine this year. Telemedicine allows the school nurse to talk with a nurse practitioner at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger through a secure video link. With special equipment, the nurse practitioner can listen to the child’s lungs and heart, as well as look in his ears and mouth from across the city. After the visit, the nurse practitioner calls the parents and the pediatrician, ensuring that everyone stays up to date with the child’s care.
“For many of our community's children, access to health care is a near impossible challenge," said Dr. R. Allen Coffman, president of the Pediatric Health Improvement Coalition for the Tennessee Valley, an organization helping get this technology installed in Hamilton County schools. "These children attend their neighborhood school every day. Taking health care to the center of the child's community, the neighborhood school, knocks down almost all of the challenges to receiving health care.”
PHIC’s vision is a community created to the health and well-being of all children.
Jacqueline Burney, the Telemedicine care coordinator for Hamilton County Department of Education, is excited to have the clinics. “Studies have shown that healthy kids have better academic outcomes," she said. "It also increases classroom time. If they are seen here they may be able to go back to class instead of calling their parent and sending them home.”
Principal Lafrederick Thirkill agrees. “Not only does telemedicine provide high-quality medical care by trusted providers, but it also give students the opportunity to see the impact of technology and the way it can enhance medicine.”
In addition to Orchard Knob Elementary, there are telemedicine clinics at East Ridge Elementary, Woodmore Elementary, East Side Elementary and East Lake Elementary this fall. As for Trenton, he said the telemedicine visit felt normal – except for the light that hurt his eyes. Then he headed back to class.