PIKE COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) – As schools in Pike County prepare to begin in-person classes, many parents are concerned about the health of their students. But Pike County Schools is working with Pikeville Medical Center to keep them safe and healthy in a new way.
Training took place Thursday for the “Healthy at School” program, a partnership with PMC and the district that brings healthcare providers to the students through a telehealth system.
“Do you have strep throat? Do you have flu? Do you have something that can be contagious and really could affect the other students in the school? Now we’re gonna be able to test for that through our provider program right here in the schools,” said PMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Aaron Crum.
The provider program, purchased with a $357,000 USDA Rural Development grant, uses camera equipment to consult with providers hospital when students come to the nurse with more severe situations than the schools could previously handle. A camera with attachments that become a stethoscope, otoscope, nasoscope and tongue depressor feeds back to the healthcare provider and a video call allows the student and doctor to interact.
“We realized we could provide better care in the schools, or expanded care,” said Crum. “One of the things that we can do is, we can keep kids at school and we can keep parents at work.”
Dr. Crum said the telehealth visits open the students to the same care they would receive in a clinic, aside from tests that require physical exams. According to Phelps school nurse Lori Hatfield, that is an option that is needed, especially in her community.
“Our parents, they work. They can’t access the doctors’ offices as often as they’d like,” said Hatfield. “These students that are not getting the care they need the same day, they’re actually gonna be able to get this care now.”
Superintendent Reed Adkins said many families have that same issue since Pike County is such a large and widely-spread district.
“You know, you can be 30 to 45 minutes from Pikeville- 30 to 45 minutes from your doctor- but you’re five to 10 minutes from your school,” said Adkins. “So it’s a game-changer for those parents and those students.”
Adkins says he is happy to partner with the hospital in these efforts and hopes to see it benefit the students and their families. According to Dr. Crum, it was an “easy fit.”
“We’ve always looked to try to partner with the Pike County School system because they’re so aggressive about trying to provide great care to their kids,” he said. “In all honesty, telemedicine is really what changed the ability to do it in such a great way.”
The services will be paid for by the students’ health insurance, but if a visit is required for a student without insurance, that visit will be free to the family.
Pikeville Independent Schools will also partner with PMC for the program.
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