At Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, 13 percent of students fall into a category called "chronically absent". Basically, around 150 students miss at least 18 days every school year. That, as well as a hope to connect students and families with quick, easy access to healthcare, is prompting a new program at the school's health office.
"It's like a virtual urgent care if you want to think of it that way," Brian Egan, CEO of Mobile Healthcare Partners, explained. "Our practice is actually a hospital without walls is what we call it. So we treat patients in the community where they reside."
Frontier CSD is partnering with Mobile Healthcare Partners, a Buffalo-based company, to pilot a "telemedicine" service for students at the middle school. That way, students visiting the nurse's office can be immediately connected to doctors through a video call and quickly be given a treatment plan.
"I was blown away," Middle School Principal Ryan Sikorski said. "I didn't realize how quickly a doctor would appear. I didn't realize they would have the opportunity to look into someone's ear or throat. It's wild but I think it's the future also."
Parents and guardians will need to opt-in to allow their children to access the service and the district is sending out more information next week with plans to have the program up and running in November.
The stethoscope and other medical tools are connected to a tablet via Bluetooth. The school nurse helps administer physical tests and the technology allows doctors to remotely conduct check ups and recommend further treatment options.
"This is not replacing a primary care doctor," Superintendent Dr. Richard Hughes explained. "This is another option to help in that line of medical care to provide early treatment."
Any treatment through telemedicine not covered by a family's health insurance is expected to be covered through the district's insurance plan.
Frontier could be the first district in New York State to adopt a telemedicine program to this extent, according to Dr. Hughes.
The district is hoping this will make things easier for parents who, rather than taking time off work to bring students to the emergency room, urgent care or doctor, will be able to call in during the telemedicine check up. Parents will be able to ask the doctor questions and perhaps save an unnecessary trip that would also take their student out of the classroom.
"Never in a million years did I think I would be talking about this," Suzanne Andelora, registered nurse at the middle school, said. "But, this is a tremendous opportunity to take care of our students and have healthcare available to families in our district."