—Submitted by Jim Allen, MPH, MSW, LMSW
Palmetto Care Connections was recently awarded $158,224 by the US Department of Agriculture Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grant Program. The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Center for Telehealth pledged a 100 percent cash match of $158,224 for a total amount of $316,448. In addition MUSC pledged an in-kind match of $12,000 to assist with project implementation. Low Country Health Care System will provide primary health care services to school children in Allendale and Barnwell Counties.
This project seeks to establish school-based telehealth availability in three underserved counties, Allendale, Bamberg, and Barnwell, in South Carolina. School-based clinics have been shown to increase health access to rural children, decreased emergency room visits, decrease absenteeism, improve chronic disease management and improve academic performance. The application of telehealth allows the services to be delivered in rural areas and smaller schools without the sustainability barriers otherwise necessitating large, urban schools. Acute sick care and chronic disease management is delivered in the school setting via a telehealth connection between the healthcare provider and the school nurse. Telehealth equipment incorporates real-time video conferencing with examination capabilities. Importantly, the model to be employed with this effort emphasizes the use of local providers as telehealth providers or care coordinating entities. Anticipated benefits include reduced emergency room visits, reduced missed work days for parents, increased access to healthcare for children, decreased absenteeism and tardiness for students, and educational achievement.
The MUSC Center for Telehealth has budgeted to expand its school-based telehealth program to a total of 40 schools. The following school districts are currently participating in the program: Charleston County School District, Williamsburg County School District, Sumter School District, and one school in Bamberg School District 1. Allendale County School District, Bamberg School District 2, and the three Barnwell County School Districts are out of the designated catchment area for their expansion plan. This grant will enable the school-based telehealth program to expand to a total of 19 schools in Allendale County School District, Bamberg School Districts 1 & 2, and Barnwell County School Districts 19, 29 & 45.
For the school districts in the three counties, we will have three providers that will be able to offer services to all 19 schools. Participating hub sites include Low Country Health Care System, MUSC and Allendale County Hospital. There will be 6,474 school-aged children eligible to benefit from this program by increasing access to high-quality health care. Equipment for end users (schools) will include Avizia 300 carts with a horus scope (exam camera and otoscope), and the Think Lab Stethoscope which will be used in the nurse’s offices. Equipment for the hub sites (primary care providers) includes a laptop with Jabber licensure, and high-quality head phones. For more information about this innovative program, please contact Trayce Shanks, RN, Telehealth Liaison, at [email protected] or Elana Wells, MPH, Program Manager, MUSC School-Based Health Center for Telehealth, at [email protected].