AUSTIN (KXAN) — Starting next school year, Austin students will have access to virtual doctor visits if they feel sick at school. Pediatricians via video chat will be able to diagnose, treat and even test students immediately for strep, flu and lice.
Doctors will electronically send a prescription to a pharmacy, if needed. These services will only be available if the parent or caregiver consents to receiving telemedicine service ahead of time.
This will be a new partnership between the Austin Independent School and pediatric telemedicine service: Virtual Care for Kids.
“Right now, if you’re a child and you show up sick to the nurse’s office, they are very limited in what they can do. Through this partnership, we are able to utilize our resources as pediatric specialized providers,” said Kevin Pearce, the President of Virtual Care for Kids.
While the company was founded locally, Pearce says it has a network of clinics and pediatricians across the state of Texas on-call and on-demand ready to provide health care to every school within AISD through a secure video conference.
The company is able to provide the service and medical supplies free of charge to the district by billing the student’s insurance after the telehealth visit. A copay may be required and will be billed to the student’s home, Pearce says. Uninsured students will also have access to the service free of charge, according to the company.
“It’s very exciting,” said Tracy Spinner, the Health Services Director at AISD. “The role of technology is really expanding in healthcare not just in the general population, but also in schools.”
Spinner says the virtual doctor’s visit will take place from the school health room on campus and she assures parents that the service will not replace, reduce or eliminate school nurses.
“It is a resource our school nurses can use to not only help them to triage students and to care for students, but also it really benefits parents and students,” she said.
Spinner says the service should not add to a school nurse’s workload of day-to-day treatment because the telemedicine service can provide medical assistants to be in the room to help. Parents can also attend the telehealth visit on campus or call in to the health room to hear the doctor’s visit via phone.
Through the service, pediatricians can treat students for a number of illnesses including minor colds, sore throat, headaches, sinus or allergy issues, pink eye and minor injuries. The school health room will also have onsite tests for a quick strep or flu diagnosis, as well as, fever reducers available.
Before a child can receive the virtual health services, parents must opt in to the program, consent and sign-up their student during the district’s online student registration process.