WATER VALLEY – Health-care for students and staff within the school district will go up another notch under a proposal by Yalobusha General Hospital officials.
YGH Administrator Terry Varner and Assistant Administrator Jesica Embry appeared before the school board last Friday during a called session to discuss using telemedicine at both the high school and elementary school.
Telemedicine is defined as the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.
Before the discussion began, Trustee Taylor Trusty recused himself from the boardroom because he is an employee of Yalobusha General Hospital. Trusty said that he would be available to answer technical questions, if necessary.
Varner told board members that hospital officials have been looking for a way to connect with the nurses stationed on the school campuses so that medical staff at YGH could be used to treat students. He added that sometimes after the nurse has made an appointment for a student, their parents are unable to get them to YGH to see a doctor or nurse practitioner.
“We are in the process of partnering with a company called I.C.P. that will build a platform where we can provide that service through telemedicine,” Varner continued.
The on-campus nurses would screen students who need to see a medical provider and then communicate with the clinic at YGH. “It’s the same as if you were in the clinic. We can eprescribe if a prescription is needed and it will go directly to the pharmacy,” said Varner.
Varner emphasized that the process would not cut the parents out of the process. “This is trying to assist the parents get treatment for their kids without them having to take off work. I think it is a win all the way around,” he said.
The system would also benefit teachers and staff by keeping them from having to take off several hours to visit a medical provider. “Now they can go into the nurses room and have the same encounter.”
The system could also be used to bring in the expertise of a specialist. “This isn’t just to Yalobusha General. If we need a specialist somewhere else that is also connected, we can dial into them and utilize their services,” Varner noted.
Trustee Casey Washington said that he had several questions and started by asking who had liability, the school district or the hospital? Varner answered that the hospital was still liable. “It is the equivalent of being in our clinic,” he said.
Washington then asked if additional equipment would be needed. Varner answered that the equipment, which would be provided by the hospital, was about $2,000.
Washington also expressed concern over the possibility of having drugs in the nurses room at the school. Varner said that he would not be comfortable with narcotic drugs at the school and they would not be needed there. “That is something that you can prescribe and have the family pickup later.”
Washington also asked if care could be administered to students without the parent being present. Varner answered that pre-approval by the parents would be required.
“I think it is a wonderful idea,” Washington said. “I just want to make sure as a school district that we are not crossing a line and assuming the medical needs of children. My greatest concern is the liability.”
Trustee Pierce Epes said that the board would need to see the details of the contract with YGH before making a decision. Superintendent Kim Chrestman explained that Varner’s appearance was an informational presentation and that all of the details would be presented to the board before a vote.
The cost of the medical care would be billed to insurance providers or Medicaid, Varner emphasized. “There will be a zero-balance to families.”
Among other actions at the Sept. 19 meeting, trustees:
• Approved a policy to allow school vehicles other than buses to transport students.
• Paid claims and heard a financial report from district business manager Randy Goodwin who said that the current fund balance in the district maintenance fund is $1,310,692.90.
• Heard the superintendent’s report and then a report from Washington, who said there had been very good response from the community on the effort to purchase iPad computer tablets for Davidson Elementary School.
“It’s been a success for our community,” Washington said. “I’ve got another $10,000 committed that I just need to go and retrieve the funds. I just want it to be known that our community really stepped up on this.”