Newswise — In a first of its kind collaboration for both parties, schools in Allen County, Kentucky, are joining with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt so that sick children can receive a more comprehensive array of health care services while attending school through virtual visits with Vanderbilt clinicians.
Through a school-based telemedicine program, nurses with the Allen County Health Department who practice in the county’s four schools in Scottsville, Kentucky, will work with nurse practitioners and pediatricians in Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Primary Care Clinic to offer the county’s 3,000-plus students care for certain conditions typically requiring a trip to a pediatrician’s office.
The telemedicine initiative is especially beneficial because there are no pediatricians currently practicing in Scottsville or Allen County. Typically, parents take their children to other counties in Kentucky, often driving more than a half-hour to the nearest pediatrician’s office. Many parents also make the hour-and-a-half drive to Nashville for pediatric care.
A generous gift from Laura Jo and Wayne Dugas, the Cal Turner Family Foundation and the James Stephen Turner Family Foundation is making this initiative possible. In addition to serving the health care needs of Allen County school children, the gift also supports construction of the hospital’s 160,000 sq. ft. expansion that is currently under construction, and will establish telemedicine facilities within the new space.
The Dugas and Turner families are from Scottsville, where the family’s patriarch, Cal Turner Sr., founded Dollar General Corporation. The family continues to have deep roots in Scottsville and Allen County.
“It’s an absolutely wonderful opportunity for the students of the Allen County school system and we’re very grateful for the help the Turner Foundation has given us over the years. They’ve served us through many projects in the past, but the potential for the general health and well-being of our students in connection with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, is tremendous,” said Randall Jackson, Superintendent of Allen County Schools. “It’s just going to be a wonderful opportunity for the students in our school system.”
School-based telemedicine is beneficial when students’ health issues fall outside a school nurse’s typical scope of practice. Technology that makes telemedicine possible includes encrypted, secure, high definition video conferencing capabilities. The technology used for this partnership will also allow parents to link in from wherever they are and be part of their child’s virtual clinic visit via a phone, tablet or computer. Electronic prescriptions can be sent to the family’s preferred pharmacy, and a follow-up communication will be sent to the student’s primary care clinician to support the child’s medical home.
“We are deeply appreciative of the vision and longstanding support of the Dugas and Turner families. Through this gift we are able to establish a world-class telemedicine program for schools that will serve as a model for others. The capability to bring the expertise of our clinicians to patients, wherever they are, through advancing tools and technology is integral to our mission to improve health across the region we serve,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., President and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
School-based telemedicine improves access to health care services for acute illnesses and conditions, while also increasing the ability to manage chronic illnesses by bringing care to the children. Benefits include fewer missed school days for children and fewer missed days at work for parents.
“What a great opportunity and convenience for our students and parents. To have access to top notch pediatricians and great medical care for our students from school where parents don’t have to miss work and students get the care they need is just unbelievable. We can’t thank the Dugas and Turner families enough for the opportunities they have provided for Allen County School Children,” said Brian Carter, Assistant Superintendent of Operations for Allen County Schools.
Schools in the Allen County system participating in the initiative include: the Allen County Primary Center, which serves 1,043 students kindergarten through third grade; Allen County Intermediate Center, which serves 732 students grades four, five and six; the James E. Bazzell Middle School, which serves 439 students in seventh and eighth grades; and Allen County High School, which serves 928 students, grades nine through 12.
The initiative is possible because each school is staffed with a full time registered nurse from the Allen County Health Department. In addition to common illnesses, the schools’ nurses also manage students who have serious chronic health conditions such as asthma, allergies, diabetes and seizures.
“The Allen County Health Department school nursing staff is excited and grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the Allen County School System and Vanderbilt on the telemedicine initiative. I feel this will become the new standard of nursing care for students not only in Allen County but also for Kentucky. This is a rare and very special opportunity for Allen County to improve health outcomes locally and be a model for our state,” said Carolyn Richey, R.N., Nursing Supervisor for the Allen County Health Department.
In addition to high definition video technology, the Children’s Hospital Telehealth Team will use telemedicine-enabled stethoscopes and otoscopes to conduct remote exams.
Services offered will include treatment for conditions such as fever, sore throat, ear pain, nausea, abdominal pain, skin irritations, inflammation, limb sprains and urinary tract infections.
“We are excited for the opportunity to create a home for pediatric telemedicine services within Children’s Hospital, and to be able to partner with the Allen County Health Department and Allen County Schools to serve the health care needs of these children,” said Luke Gregory, Chief Executive Officer, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. “This initiative, which is possible through the generosity of the Dugas and Turner families, will allow us to reduce travel time and stress for these children and their families, and will create improved access to expertise that might not otherwise be available.”
The telemedicine facilities will be located within the four-floor, 160,000 sq. ft. expansion of Children’s Hospital that is currently underway. The facilities will include a telemedicine enabled conference room that will convert into classroom space. The facilities will also include individual telemedicine workstations for clinicians.
The construction expansion for Children’s Hospital is possible due to the Growing to New Heights Campaign, an ambitious fundraising effort that garnered generous support from numerous donors and organizations throughout the community.
In a joint statement the Dugas and Turner families said: “We are delighted to see Allen County Schools, the Allen County Health Department and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital partner in this groundbreaking effort. In addition to enhancing healthcare for school children in Allen County, our hope is that this collaboration will lead to others with rural communities throughout the region. Making this even more special to us is that our dear friend and Scottsville native Gwen Bond was married to Jim Bond, who we knew since high school, and who worked for more than 40 years for Monroe Carell at Central Parking.”