The Frontier Central School District is preparing to bring telemedicine into some of its schools. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says it will begin as a pilot program to meet healthcare challenges.
“Our middle school, 13.5-percent of our students last year were considered chronically absent, that means they missed at least10-percent of the school year, so at least 18 days or more they were absent,” said Dr. Richard Hughes, Frontier Schools Superintendent.
With those numbers in hand, Frontier Schools Superintendent Dr. Richard Hughes explains the district is working to begin the telemed pilot program in the middle school. It's the largest in Erie County with nearly 12-hundred students in 6th through 8th grades.
Hughes tells WBFO News much of those missed school days were caused by illness.
"Access to medical care can be a challenge. We're not looking to replace primary doctors, we're not looking to replace the family doctor. But we're looking to provide an option to families - maybe their ear hurts, or their stomach that mom or dad may have to come pick them up or grandparents - or whoever takes care of them - they may have to leave work or maybe they can't pick them up,” Hughes explained
The telemedicine program would allow the school nurses to conduct a live-video conference with a doctor or nurse practitioner and parents would also be able to participate.
The District is partnering with a Buffalo-based company called Mobile Primary Care. A video on the company's website says it offers care to home-bound or those with limited access to medical care.
Superintendent Hughes said the company applied for a $40-million state grant and would provide the telemedicine free to the district...
"It's going to be no cost to the district and for the kids who may not have insurance Mobile Primary Care - is going to make sure those are covered and it also gives the chance to maybe help the families find other services to provide those kind of pieces,” Hughes remarked. “The great thing about it – a parent could be on their phone at work – their smart phone – they can listen in on the appointment – the primary doctor – a recording takes place with it – any measurements – the stethoscope has a Bluetooth in it.”
Frontier middle school parents will be notified and must sign up if they wish to participate.
A similar program called Health-e-Access is used at all 37-elementary schools in the Rochester City School District. More and more districts are looking at this option - as superintendent Hughes noted “schools 'aren't just schools anymore.”