Telemedicine technology now at Cassville, Monett

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
In photo, from left, is Cassville primary student Molly Cox, utilizing the CoxHealth Telemedicine service with the assistance of Susan Weldy, RN, who is currently serving as support staff for the service. A three-year grant through CoxHealth and the Missouri Foundation for Health has made the convenient and time-saving service possible for several area schools, including Cassville and Monett. The service allows students to be seen promptly at school with an online provider for common acute illnesses, keeping them in school and parents at work. A parent must be present for the visit, but can do without having to leave home or work, by connecting via a computer, smart phone or other video device. Contributed photo

Medical service offers students, public, multiple benefits

When their child comes down with an ear infection, fever or sore throat, working parents must take time off work to get their child in to see a doctor, and further, students miss school until they can see a doctor, obtain medicine, and show that their symptoms have resolved.

But, thanks to a new telemedicine program offered by CoxHealth as a result of a grant by the Missouri Foundation for Health to area elementary schools, including Cassville and Monett, that scenario is one administrators hope will be a thing of the past, as the medical system is bringing onsite health care directly to students — and at no cost.

From left are: LaDon Vanzant, Cassville Primary School RN; Susan Weldy, RN at Cox Monett Hospital and Bobbi Blankenship, RN at Cox Monett Hospital. Weldy and Blankenship are currently serving as support staff for the CoxHealth Telemedicine service at Cassville schools. The service allows students to be seen by a remote doctor online at school for acute illnesses like strep throat, ear infections and pink eye; illnesses that normally cause students to miss school, and parents to miss work, due to taking time off to see a doctor. Contributed photo

Over a three-year period, CoxHealth plans to place mobile telehealth carts in Cassville, Forsyth, Monett, Mountain Grove, Ozark and Reeds Spring schools.

The service was initially set up toward the end of the last school year, but fully implemented this school year, and is designed to address acute ailments such as sore throats, earaches, pink eye, strep, chronic coughs, rashes and the flu — all run-of-the-mill illnesses that cause a child to miss school, and a parent, work. Students can be seen by referral from their school nurse, or by a parent or guardian requesting an appointment. 

Telemedicine works by connecting a student with a remote provider via the internet through the use of a mobile telehealth cart equipped with instruments to look in ears, throats and listen to the lungs, so that a doctor can examine students as if they were sitting in their office. Providers include nurse practitioners aboard the CARE Mobile, and a mobile pediatric clinic, sponsored by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

“With the equipment [from the telehealth cart], anything we are seeing, they [providers] are seeing,” said Susan Weldy, RN at Cox Monett Hospital, who is temporarily helping until permanent staff is hired this fall. “And in a couple of weeks, we’ll be adding a stethoscope so we can diagnose upper respiratory infections as well. We saw our first patient last Friday, and four patients today.”

Parents must be present during the visit, either in person, via their smart phone or other video-enabled device.

If a diagnosis is made during the visit, prescriptions will be sent to the family’s preferred pharmacy, and prescription assistance may be available for those who need it, as CoxHealth plans to partner with various agencies to provide financial support for medications.

With no cost for students, lack of insurance or in-or-out-of-network insurance conversations are a mute point, so there is no hassle or red tape.

“It is absolutely amazing,” Weldy said, who, as a parent herself, can utilize the benefits, saving time and money.

“It saves me the copay and trip. So, we really want to promote it and let parents and the public know this is available for their students. Any enrolled student at Cassville [or Monett] can use this at no cost, regardless of insurance.”

“That’s the whole goal of this program — that students won’t have to miss school. Hours will be from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and we can arrange a time that works best for the parent before or promptly after school. That way parents don’t have to miss work, or the students miss school for an earache.”

Nursing staff report that they have been able to get students seen very quickly, with appointments averaging 15-20 minutes.  

“You just log in and the approximate wait time is seven to 10 minutes to get a provider online,” Weldy said.

The program has been so beneficial in nipping illness in the bud and helping students stay in school, that it is now available to all students — not just elementary.

“I think a lot of schools have had so much success with it, they’ve extended it through twelfth grade,” Weldy said.

“All students can be seen,” said Jill LeCompte, Cassville schools assistant superintendent. “Because of the overwhelming need for healthcare in our area, CoxHealth expanded the age range of the students that can been seen. We are so proud and excited to be a part of this grant.”

The benefits of the technology don’t stop with students.

“It’s also for public use, so if a parent wants to use it, it’s a discounted rate at $49 for the public, and $45 teachers [regardless of insurance],” Weldy said.

The service is voluntary and parents must have a permission slip on file for their student to be treated. Office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. 

For more information, people may contact Bobbi Blankenship, RN, or Weldy at 417-847-4040.

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