More Schools Using Telehealth

A recent article in the Washington Post shows that telehealth is gaining popularity in American schools, but state laws are slowing its implementation. Consider that:

  • More than 30 states still don’t authorize Medicaid reimbursement for telehealth services provided in schools.
  • Some state Medicaid programs only cover telehealth if a doctor or nurse practitioner is at the school – and most schools are staffed by registered nurses, not NPs.
  • School telehealth is largely limited to primary care/pediatric cases, although New York and South Carolina are using it for mental health, and Michigan uses it for speech pathology.

Yet there are many success stories to share. Missouri state legislator Kip Kendrick helped pass a law allowing Medicaid payments for K-12 telehealth. “School telehealth will be a game-changer in children’s health, keeping them in school and improving educational outcomes,” he says.

The benefits of K-12 telehealth to date fall into three main buckets:

Quelling flu outbreaks – Before telehealth, Sevier County, Tennessee schools experienced annual school closings due to flu. Since the arrival of telehealth, there have been five straight years with no flu-related school closings.

Improving individual attendance – With telehealth, a child who leaves an asthma inhaler at home can be seen promptly by a doctor and given medication at school rather than having to go to an ER.

Reducing missed work time – When a student sees a doctor via telehealth, parents don’t have to leave work for office visits.

So let’s applaud states like Maryland, Missouri and South Carolina that are tapping the full potential of school telehealth. And here’s our message for the lag-behind states: you’re missing some great opportunities.

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