Blog Post 5: Promising Advances in Rural SBHCs, & Genesee Valley SD’s work with Telehealth
As discussed in the previous blog post, School-Based Health Center
Research across the field has shown that telehealth is an effective modality to expand access to health services. According to a 2019 study by Pradhan, et. al, implementation of a school-based telehealth model for integrating mental health services requires significant collaboration for effective integration, and the steps necessary to ensure success include identifying sites, assessing clinical and technical needs, identifying funding opportunities, and being aware of state- and payer dependent telemedicine regulations. When done effectively, there is evidence of positive impact by these models. Link: National School-Based Health Care Census.
Spotlight in Innovations: Genesee Valley School District (GVCSD), with Anne Campbell, Wellness Director: Genesee Valley Central School (GVCS)
In the case of Genesee Valley School District, leftover money from a grant which was mainly used for offering dental care was used to purchase telemedical supplies. Starting in 2018, GVSD formed a partnership with Mobile Primary Care, based out of Buffalo. Through this partnership, GVCSD has been able to develop both a telemedical and telepsychiatry program. In conversation with RSA, Campbell noted that the tele-medicine unit, staffed with a trained school nurse, incorporates Bluetooth technology and medical instruments to transmit student vital statistics and symptoms to a remote-based doctor. As pictured here, personnel connect to Bluetooth technology in order to connect with physicians and nurses based back in Buffalo – who are able to provide medical treatment to students remotely.
While the program is still new, Campbell has seen anecdotal impacts in terms of students’ attendance as well as teachers’ reflections on the impact of these telehealth supports. She noted:
“Many families are disempowered by barriers in our district. Access to transportation and healthcare providers continues to be an obstacle in rural Allegany County. This program is geared to be an additional resource for our families. Our school nurses have certainly seen improvement. When a student that is enrolled in the program comes into their office not feeling well, parents are contacted and the child is treated within minutes. If a prescription is needed, the provider is able to electronically send what is needed to their family pharmacy. Teachers have also noted that students’ behaviors are much healthier in the classroom environment and with their peers as well. GVCSD telemedical program is the first in New York State to have Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certified through NYS Department of Health. We act as an Urgent Care and can additionally test for Strep, Flu, and Urinalysis. The telepsychiatry program continues to grow as we work closely with Dr. Aimee DiPasqua, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. When we come back to school, additional counseling services will be offered remotely as Mobile Primary has hired a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to add to this program.’’
Reflecting on the program, Campbell notes tips for success:
“For districts that want to pursue any new type of medical program, whether it's telemedical or a School Based Health Center, they need to have someone that is dedicated to programming. There's so much that goes on behind the scenes; marketing, recruitment, event planning, and so forth. When you are asking families to give consent to a medical program such as this, you need to earn their trust. They need to understand how it works and that we are giving their child a safe and secure place to be treated. Not only are we taking care of their educational needs, but now we are offering medical and psychiatry services right in the school. It’s important to gain that trust [with families and communities] and having someone that's dedicated to do it.”
GVSD Telemedicine and COVID-19
Presently, GVSD can now offer in-home telemedical services for GVCS students, faculty and staff. Mobile Primary Care created a secure network that allows them to connect with families and students in their homes by a link that is sent to their email of cellphone. What can be diagnosed is limited, but it’s a continuation of medical services during this crisis. GVSD has also continued Telepsychiatry services as well and there has not been a gap since COVID-19 began.
For more about GVSD’s work, check out: Genesee Valley Central School launches School-Based Telemedicine and Telepsychiatry Program and Genesee Valley takes proactive approach to become Full-Service Community School.
In light of the COVID-19 crisis, telemedicine is an option that has been exceedingly explored through SBHCs, and will be discussed in the final blog of this series: Blog Post 6: Timely Relevance and COVID-19.