Telemed program helps with sniffles and more

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By Michelle Hollenhead

When siblings Lucy and Noah Basler came down with sore throats last week at Petros-Joyner Elementary, they didn’t have to leave the building for help.

They went just down the hall to the nurse’s office, where both examined over the Internet by Telemed nurse Sharon Smith.

An auto scope and a dental camera, operated by on-site school nurse Christina Diden, helped Smith hone in on the cause of their pain, confirmed with a swab test as strep throat.

Smith was able to not only diagnose the Baslers, but she was also able to call in prescriptions, for the pair, who were picked up from school by their mother.

“I think this is great,” Anna Basler said. “It is so convenient.”

She isn’t the only one praising the Morgan County Schools’ program, which is currently in its second year.

“It’s been great,” said Director of Schools Ronnie Wilson. “It helps the kids, and it saves their parents money because they don’t have to miss work to pick up their kids and take them to the doctor.

“It has also helped with attendance.”

There is very little wait time for appointments; patients are usually seen within 20 minutes, explained Diden.

Telemed is available in all six Morgan County Schools, and not only helps diagnose students, but also teachers, too.

After being treated, students and teachers can potentially return to the classroom, as long as they are not contagious, explains MCS’s Director of Health Services Sabra Coker, who discovered the program at a nursing conference.

More than 500 patients were seen last year, Coker said, adding that Telemed sees most of its patients in Petros-Joyner, Coalfield Oakdale and Sunbright schools.

After some serious investigation, and support from the Board of Education, Coker was able to see the program’s implementation last school year at no cost to the county.

“Sometimes, there is more work for us, but it is helping the children, and that is why we are here — for the kids,” Coker said.

The schools don’t handle any of the billing either; that is taken care of through a third party, which bills the patents’ insurance companies.

“I was a little apprehensive about the billing, but that has been a non-issue,” Wilson said.

Beyond strep throat, flu and other treatable illnesses, serious issues have been discovered through Telemed, too, Coker said.

“We had one [student] who thought he had broken his foot,” she said. “Smith was able to issue a X-ray order. He had actually broken his foot, but he didn’t have to go to the ER.”

Although the program does not take urine sample this year, as it did last year, another student ended up being diagnosed with a kidney disease based on an initial visit to the Telemed clinic.

“We also had a staff member encouraged to undergo a mammogram, which turned out to be breast cancer,” Coker added.

“It is just a great program” Wilson reiterated. “And it is just one more way Morgan County Schools are above the curve.

“We have Telemed, and are working on our dental program — which will also be offered at no cost — and we already have the 1-1 devices for our students.”

(Morgan County students in grades 4-12 currently have Chrome books, with lower grades in line to receive them in the near future.)

“We have a lot of neat things going on.”