Founded over a century ago, McLeod Health is a healthcare system with approximately 750 physicians on its medical staff, 2,700 registered nurses, and more than 8,500 employees. McLeod Health has seven hospitals and includes 931 acute licensed beds across Northeastern South Carolina.
Using telehealth to care for school students
Many McLeod patients live in rural areas, with limited access to health care services. However, across the state of South Carolina, telehealth has been growing in popularity as a way to improve access to care by facilitating provider-patient visits over video. As part of this expansion, telehealth is also taking hold in schools, where students can connect virtually with providers during school hours to quickly get the care they need.
While some schools had pilot telehealth programs, many of the processes were still manual, such as faxing paperwork back and forth between the school and the provider’s office. This led to inefficiencies like missing information, slow communications, and added paperwork. In addition, video calls were limited to two participants (the student and the provider), leaving parents and guardians out of the loop.
McLeod Health led the way to implement a more modern school-based telehealth program using state-of-the-art technologies, which allows them to deliver virtual care fast and give time back to students and their families.
“Having the McLeod School-Based Telehealth Program at our school has been a great asset not only to our students and their parents/guardians but also to our entire school body. It has decreased the amount of missed instruction time for students and missed work time for parents/guardians. The school-based telehealth program gives us additional tools that provide increased access to healthcare for students and the ability to better discern who truly needs to be excluded from school due to illness. This, in turn, further increases the educational opportunity for our students and promotes the health and wellness of our entire school body,” said Brittany W. Waller, RN, BSN, school nurse at South Florence High School.
Connecting students, providers, and parents quickly and securely
McLeod Health rolled out its new program to several schools in the Florence One Schools, providing them with equipment including computers, monitors, cameras and even a remote stethoscope. Pexip’s video engine powers the customized web interface for virtual visits, while Iron Bow partnered with McLeod to determine and implement the appropriate telehealth equipment.
When a student visits the school nurse, the nurse can evaluate his or her symptoms and determine whether that student needs to speak with a provider. The school nurse then logs in to a secure, customized web interface built around Pexip to request a virtual visit, which triggers a notification to local McLeod provider practices. Once a provider accepts, the visit is added to the provider’s schedule. Parents also receive an email with instructions on how to join the scheduled visit. The goal is to schedule appointments almost immediately, and most take place within the hour.
When it’s time for the appointment, the school nurse (with the student), provider, and parent/guardian can securely join the visit using any device, including telehealth carts, tablets, smart phones, or web browsers. Since the schools have access to otoscopes and stethoscopes, they are able to share visual information with the provider to remotely diagnose illnesses and prescribe medications that can be picked up after school. Telehealth has proven especially useful for cases involving ear-, throat-, and skin-related concerns.
Why Pexip and Iron Bow
Together, Pexip and Iron Bow delivered a state-of-the-art telehealth solution for McLeod Health.
Pexip’s video engine powered the solution, enabling secure, reliable video visits from any device and location. Because of its customization options, McLeod was able to develop a unique web interface that extended its branding, colors, and overall look-and-feel to the application. Robust integrations also enabled McLeod to tie the Pexip engine to its existing workflows, such as its electronic medical records and scheduling processes, so it was easy to use on a day-to-day basis.
Iron Bow provided their Clinical Care Device (CLINiC™) which enables the remote consultations between patients and providers. The CLINiC uses an intuitive icon-driven user interface to make starting and joining calls easy for providers and can easily connect with scopes and peripherals for more effective consultations. The CLINiC has many variations depending on space and use case requirements, the model that McLeod chose was a cart-based model allowing for flexible movement and transfer to different areas as needed.
Reducing infectious disease spread; saving time and money
The McLeod School-Based Telehealth Program has had a tremendous impact on participants and on the community.
The school district has seen a number of benefits since rolling out this program. Since students can be treated quickly, they don’t risk infecting others by going back into the classroom while they wait for an appointment. They can quickly see a provider, get a diagnosis, and even receive an e-prescription -- all without having to wait until after school. It also helps keep students out of the emergency departments, saving money for families and reducing the strain on hospitals.
Since virtual visits are not limited to two-way communication, families can also participate in the calls without having to leave home or the office, which provides peace of mind and saves time. And because all communications are now electronic, information is more readily accessible and can be securely shared between involved parties. The care team can easily access medical histories and records without having to shuffle papers around.
"It's going to be extremely convenient treating the child in a familiar environment without having them leave school," nurse practitioner Lisa Wallace of McLeod Health explained. "Our goal is to reduce absenteeism, risk of infection as well as decrease the use of the ER for visits that aren't necessarily emergent."
“I am looking forward to having the school-based telehealth program at our school again this upcoming school year. I know it will be especially helpful given these unprecedented circumstances dealing with COVID-19,” Waller noted.