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11/28/2018 5:49:00 PM
New high-tech clinic connects students with remote health care providers

Mitchell Kirk, Pharos-Tribune Staff Writer

Landis Elementary School Nurse Amy Craven held a stethoscope to her heart. But it wasn’t just any stethoscope.

This medical instrument was connected to a computer. On the other side of town at Logansport Memorial Hospital, Tara Hughes, a family nurse practitioner, listened to Craven’s heartbeat through headphones.

“Right now I can hear her heart,” Hughes said from the wide-screen monitor to attendees of a technology demonstration Tuesday at Landis Elementary School. She went on to instruct Craven to take a deep breath and then to move the stethoscope over so that she could listen to her other lung. 

That technology and other remote health care services are now available to Landis Elementary School students. The school’s new telehealth clinic will benefit both students and their guardians, according to those behind the initiative.

The Terre Haute-based Indiana Rural Health Association is funding the clinic through a U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration grant while Anthem is funding the Landis telehealth clinic’s equipment.

Kathleen Chelminiak, project director for the Indiana Rural Schools Clinic Network with the Indiana Rural Health Association, attended Tuesday’s demonstration. She said the network has opened 11 other telehealth clinics across the state since receiving the grant funding to do so in 2016.

The Logansport Community School Corp. initiated a telehealth grant application with the Indiana Rural Health Association to fund Landis’ new clinic, according to a press release.

When Landis students use the school’s telehealth clinic, Chelminiak explained a school nurse will be able enter their vitals, primary diagnoses, prescriptions, allergies and other patient information into a computer software program that remote health care providers will be able to access. Those providers will be able to interact with the nurse and students via video conferencing and enhanced medical instruments, like the stethoscope Hughes was able to listen to Craven’s heartbeat through miles away.

Another one of those tools is an otoscope equipped with a camera connected to the telehealth clinic’s system that allows remote health care providers to view the inside of a patient’s ear. A camera-equipped dermascope can send a close-up video feed of a patient’s skin for the evaluation of rashes and other dermatological afflictions. Both tools allow for photographs to be taken, which can be added to patients’ files.

Chelminiak said the telehealth clinic will be able to address illnesses common among schoolchildren like strep throat, rashes and earaches.

Crystal Zinsmeister, director of Care Coordination for Logansport Memorial Hospital, said information gathered during telehealth visits will be logged so that it will be available the next time a student sees their pediatrician.

Zinsmeister added remote health care providers will be able to call in prescriptions for students when necessary. If a student is ill and needs to leave school, their parent can pick them up and get that prescription on the way home without ever having to fit in a hospital visit, she continued.

The telehealth clinic will also allow students to connect with behavioral health services Four County Counseling Center provides.

A press release on the initiative states students must have consent from their parent or guardian to participate in the telehealth clinic and that any fees are appropriately billed to insurance. No students will be denied coverage or treatment due to lack of ability to pay, the release also states.

Logansport Memorial Hospital President and CEO Perry Gay indicated he’s excited for the initiative.

“When we talked with the IRHA about this project, there was no other answer that we could give but, ‘Absolutely yes, we want to do it,’” he said at Landis Elementary School Tuesday. 

He called telehealth a significant initiative on the hospital’s horizon, adding the service was recently added to the hospital’s emergency room.

Carrie Cadwell, CEO of Four County Counseling Center, praised the teamwork that brought Landis’ telehealth clinic to fruition.

Julie Keck, medical director for Anthem Medicaid, called the decision to fund Landis’ new equipment “right up our alley.”

Logansport Community School Corp. Superintendent Michele Starkey indicated Landis may not have the corporation’s only telehealth clinic for long.

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity for our students here and on this campus and we only hope that we’re able to grow it across our district and also become a model site for districts around us,” she said.

Gay agreed.

“We hope that this is going to turn into something much bigger,” he said.

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