District-wide telehealth in store for 2021-22 school year

WASHINGTON COUNTY – When school starts back this fall, each Washington County school will have a new feature geared at ensuring easier access to healthcare and that making the lives of parents, students, and employees a little easier. 

Telemedicine will be introduced district-wide and be made available to all students and staff through six sets telehealth kiosks. This equipment will be placed at each school and at the districtÂ’s central office. 

Superintendent of Schools Joe Taylor hopes this addition will be beneficial to everyone who utilizes it. 

“It is important to the district that we help our community as much as possible,” said Taylor. “Telehealth can help keep students in school and parents from missing work, which benefits everyone.” 

Two of the six units were purchased by the school district, two were purchased with funds stemming from a Hurricane Michael grant, and the last two were donated by Northwest Florida Health Network, formerly known as Big Bend Community Based Care. 

The system is designed to work in real time, just as though seeing a doctor face to face. There are tools to take vitals, look in ears and throats, and check temperatures. A nurse is on hand to run the equipment, which is comprised of a monitor that remotely connects the patient to a doctor who will conduct the visit. Should the doctor want to look in the patientÂ’s ears, the nurse will utilize the equipment to allow them to see. Once the examination is complete, the doctor will call  any prescriptions into the pharmacy of the patientÂ’s choosing and will advise what course of action is to be taken. 

The district works in coordination with Northwest Florida Community Hospital clinics to provide the medical personnel on the other end of telehealth. LeeAnn Davidson is the medical provider for Vernon students, and Chipley students will be attended by Urgent Care Clinic staff. Parental permission is required to utilize this service, with a permission form to be included in student orientation packets. Should a student need to be seen, regardless of having filled out the form, a phone call will be placed to request parental permission. 

NFCH Chief Executive Officer Michael Kozar says this type of medical care is working toward the forefront of healthcare.  

“As telemedicine has become a mainstream avenue for providing care, the cooperative relationship between the Washington County School District and Northwest Florida Community Hospital enables us to provide care to the students and staff at the school location,” said Kozar. “This allows the student to stay at school and allows school staff to remain in the workplace while providing them with a convenient service to receive quality healthcare through telemedicine.” 

An added feature available at both Chipley and VernonÂ’s middle and high schoolÂ’s is a program called “LetÂ’s Talk” deals with the mental health aspect of care. 

With the addition of four licensed mental health workers in the district, this program allows for any student or faculty member to access a mental health expert. 

Students who already see mental health providers at places such as Life Management or Florida Therapy wonÂ’t have to miss school to go to an appointment, either. These appointments can be conducted from school in a designated room to allow for privacy. This means parents will not need to leave work to take their children to appointments should the need arise. Appointments for refills or follow ups can be done through this program as well. 

WCSD Telehealth Liaison Carmen Moon says this program could be a game changer. 

“We believe the utilization of this program could be such a time saver for parents,” said Moon. “By using telehealth, parent wonÂ’t have to take the time to leave work to sit in a waiting room if there are no appointments available; their child can be seen by a healthcare provider and any needed prescriptions will already be called in for pick up.” 

Vernon schools utilized Telehealth last year, and Moon stated all the feedback received from parents was positive and the district is hoping for more of the same. 

For more information, contact Washington County School District at 850-638-6222.