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School-based Virtual Clinic Improves Children’s Access to Care

By Sinead Taylor | August 23, 2021 | Community Health, Community Partners, Investments

School nurse and little boy do a telehealth visit with a doctor on the computer

Thanks to a virtual school clinic, asthma sufferer Darihanna breathes easier. So does her mother.

Darihanna Ussery is a Cleveland County student who suffers from chronic asthma. At one point, it seemed as though Darihanna was spending more time in the doctor’s office than in the classroom. That was until her school launched a virtual clinic. It offers convenient telehealth services to students.

Darihanna’s mother, Detra Rice, hated seeing her daughter’s condition affecting her education.

“Before this virtual clinic, about three to four times a week, I had to go pick her up. [Her asthma] wasn’t under control then,” Detra said. “Now that we have the virtual clinic, I haven’t gone to the school to pick her up at all.”

The Atrium Health Levine Children’s Community-Based Virtual Care aims to improve students’ access to pediatricians. The doctors can diagnose and develop treatment plans while the students remain at school. This minimizes disruptions to the student’s educational experience. It also eliminates the need for parents to disrupt their schedules and head to the doctor’s office.

The virtual school clinics are located in rural and underserved communities in North Carolina, where access to pediatricians is limited. Since launching in 2017, the clinics have helped students stay in school all day. They’ve also decreased avoidable visits to the emergency department by 37%, according to Atrium Health.

Traditional clinic meets innovative technology

Here’s how the clinics work: Using a secure telemedicine platform and innovative technology, students are evaluated by a Levine Children’s pediatrician. The doctor completes a health exam using a tele-stethoscope to listen to their heart and lungs. They can also use a tele-otoscope to see their eardrums. A high-resolution camera allows the doctors evaluate students’ eyes, nose, throat and skin.

Students are treated for the same issues doctors would tend to at traditional clinics. This includes common colds, asthma, respiratory infections, headaches, sore throats, belly aches and minor skin issues.

“We finally had this aha moment that with innovative technology, we can access kids in their rhythm of life,” said Patricia Grinton, MD, director of Levine Children’s School Based Virtual Clinic.

Parents can join the virtual visit via audio or video or choose to attend in-person. The doctors then discuss the diagnosis and treatment plans, including prescriptions and follow-up care, with parents.

“Even though we’re not face-to-face, we’re still communicating with each other and that’s the key of this virtual visit,” said Detra. “It really has benefited not only my daughter, but it is also saving me time and money.”

Expanding beyond the classroom

The virtual school clinics are developed through a partnership between Atrium Health Levine Children’s, Atrium Health’s Community Health division, Cleveland County Public Health Center and Cleveland County Schools.  

In 2019, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) invested $750,000 to expand the clinics to additional schools in Cleveland County. The program is now being offered in 25 schools throughout the county.

This summer, its reach expanded even further. Now the clinics are available to youth enrolled in summer programming at the Cleveland County YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland County.

Blue Cross NC understands that access to care is crucial for helping kids stay healthy. That’s why we invest in community programs like Atrium Health Levine Children’s Community-Based Virtual Care.