For rural communities like Orrick, Mo. in Ray County, barriers to quality health care access are common. As for the students living in these communities, this could mean traveling to neighboring cities to receive care for common ailments like cold, flu, ear infections and other typical illnesses.
The Orrick R-XI School District, in partnership with the Health Care Collaborative (HCC) of Rural Missouri, is embarking on cutting-edge technology to deliver quality health care to students. To make health care more accessible, students who have been granted parental consent can be treated for common ailments like cold, flu, ear infections and other illnesses through a new Telehealth Clinic on school grounds slated to open late fall of the 2016-2017 school year. Only students with prior parental consent will receive primary care services at this school-based clinic. Those without consent will continue to receive services from the school's registered nurse as they have in the past.
Telehealth is the use of technology to deliver health care, in real-time, by a health care practitioner who is in a remote location. All telehealth visits require that a health care professional, like the school nurse, is on site with the student receiving these services. This health care professional will coordinate with the remote health care provider to ensure the student receives quality care that is virtually no different than a student who travels to a doctor's office for care.
"The telehealth clinic is an option," said Orrick R-XI School District Superintendent Dr. Aerin O'Dell. "This program will give our students quicker and easier access to quality health care. Many of our parents commute to work so when their child needs to be picked up because they are ill, it takes that much longer for them to get their child to a doctor if necessary. This clinic will allow parents to give the school permission to have their child seen by a doctor before they're even picked up from school. As a working mom, I'm thrilled that if one of my children is sick, I can have them see a doctor at school, pick up a prescription - if one is needed - and take them directly home. Parents miss less work and students get home quicker and are exposed to less germs than going to a doctor's office."
Services at the telehealth clinic will be provided by health care practitioners associated with the Live Well Community Health Centers which are owned and operated by Lexington, Mo.-based HCC. "The Orrick community and its health and well-being have always been a huge priority for me," said former resident and HCC CEO Toniann Richard. "This telehealth clinic will enable authorized students to receive primary care services early, which in some instances could prevent costly emergency department visits that are easily treated in a primary care setting. We are excited about the opportunity to offer parents an added layer of care and compassion for their children who are battling typical illness in a safe, comfortable, school-based environment."
Some of the primary care services to be offered include vaccinations, sports physicals, well-child physicals and sick-child exams. The School District will also have access to HCC and its Live Well Community Health Centers' 340-B Program. Down the road, additional plans are underway for dental care services using HCC/Live Well's mobile dental unit that will supply preventative and restorative dental services to children.
"It is our hope to install psychiatric services to the District in the upcoming school year," Richard said. "Services for adults are also a priority for HCC and the School District. We will work with the District and community leaders to communicate a plan to implement adult services once school-based services are set."
"I envision this program changing the face of health care in the community," Dr. O'Dell said. "By eventually opening the clinic up to the public, we will be helping to bring health care to those in our community who feel its absence most - the elderly, parents with young children and those with transportation needs. Connecting our community to our school outside the normal avenues is very important to the Orrick School District. This program will do just that."
The telehealth clinic has yet another benefit - HCC will also be providing the funds to support a full-time community health worker. This person will work onsite directly with the District's registered nurse to assist with integrating the school-based clinic, clinic visits, treatment referrals and other school-based clinic initiatives.
"We are grateful to the community for supporting our endeavors to be at the forefront of developing ideas to help increase access to health care in Orrick," Dr. O'Dell said. "We believe a telehealth clinic, in particular, supports the forward motion already in play in the Orrick School District that underscores 21st Century education."