AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

Georgia Continues to Lead the Way with Telemedicine in Public Schools

The usual topics of public school board meetings generally include such topics as the state of school budgets, discussions on appropriate text books, disciplinary policies, dress codes, or the progress report on new building construction. But during the regular monthly meeting of the Coffee County Board of Education, on February 13, 2013, Coffee Schools Nursing Supervisor Kathy Cole and Family Connections Director April Thomason announced that the Coffee County School System was recently awarded a $500,000 grant, which will be used to purchase telemedicine equipment. Utilizing telecommunications and information technologies in order to provide clinical health care at a distance is revolutionizing the delivery of medical care and services, and Cole stated, “By receiving this grant, we truly are on the cusp of something so very innovative.”

The state of Georgia continues to set the pace nationally for promoting telemedicine as a preferred mode of healthcare delivery, particularly in regions where the nearest doctors are often hours away from their patients. “Georgia is definitely a model for other states,” said Sherilyn Pruitt, director of the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, part of the division of rural health in the U.S. Health Resources Services Administration.

School boards across the country continue to struggle with providing appropriate levels of medical care to students attending public schools. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that medical services can be required as a part of the educational services school districts must provide. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that schools provide “related aids and services” so that children with disabilities can be educated to the maximum extent appropriate with their non-disabled peers, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities, requiring school districts to provide accommodations for students with disabilities.

The use of telemedicine is proving to be a viable alternative to providing this mandated coverage in a cost effective manner, while increasing the quality and availability of these services to students.

The new equipment in Coffee County, for example, will allow students and school employees and staff to be seen by a certified medical physician without ever having to leave the classroom or school. With over 240 doctors in the physicians’ network the school will utilize, coverage will be very complete. Statistics have shown that this practice results in a dramatic reduction of student and employee absences, benefitting not just the health of the schools, but also efficiency in working towards educational goals.

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