Getting started: Is telehealth right for your school?
Building a successful school-based telehealth program can be challenging. Support is required from inside and outside the school community. Use a strong voice from your community to champion school-based telehealth. This could be a local politician, hometown celebrity, or community leader passionate about helping students.
Integrating telehealth into your school
Decide which kinds of care your school will provide to students. Some of the most common services include primary care, behavioral health, and diabetes care management. You will have to consider what types of providers will need to be involved to form your telehealth team. These may include:
- Primary care: general practitioners, physician assistants
- Behavioral health: psychiatrists, counselors, social workers
- Diabetes care: endocrinologists
Places you can consider finding a doctor to provide your telehealth services include local health care offices, regional-based health care systems, or telehealth provider networks.
Behavioral health providers can be harder to find in some communities. Telehealth makes it easier for kids in rural or urban neighborhoods to get the support they need.
Engage staff at the school to help with telehealth services. School administration needs to understand your telehealth program and the benefits it provides for students. They will also need to understand their role in the program. If the school has a nurse, this individual will be a vital team member. Determine which school administration, teachers, guidance counselors, and IT staff need to join your implementation team to ensure the success and sustainability of the program.
When planning your telehealth program, consider the following questions:
- Who will determine the process for managing appointments?
- Who will train your staff in skills to support the telehealth services?
- Who will work with the doctor to ensure the workflow is smooth during the telehealth appointment?
- Who will provide communication to the students and parents or guardians about the telehealth services?
Prepare a space for the telehealth appointment to take place. You will need to provide a private location and a space with minimal distractions. You may consider communicating with the doctor to determine some guidelines for the patients while in the space. These may include:
- Not allowing personal electronic devices inside the room without doctor approval
- Requiring the patient to sit in front of/not hide from the camera
Develop a workflow. You will need to outline the responsibilities of the school, the patients, their parents or guardians, and the doctors providing care for the following tasks:
- Appointment referral
- Getting and documenting consent
- Registration including health insurance information
- Conducting the appointment
- Appointment follow-up
Before the appointment is confirmed with the patient and the doctor, you will need to:
- Determine the need for a telehealth appointment
- Obtain parent or guardian consent for telehealth appointments
- Will a one-time consent be accepted? Or will consent need to be documented for each appointment
- Contact the doctor to schedule a telehealth appointment
Tip: For more information on obtaining telehealth consent forms please reference this guide from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
Once the telehealth appointment is confirmed with the patient and the doctor, you must:
- Prepare the patient for the appointment
- Be available to assist the patient with their telehealth appointment
- Document the care provided required by the school. Follow up with the parent or guardian on outcomes and next steps
Technology is important for your school-based telehealth program. Take time to make plans for the set-up and maintenance of telehealth equipment.
Research and identify the technical platform that meets the needs for the services your school is selecting to provide. This may include:
- Cameras and microphones
- Remote Patient Monitoring tools such as:
- Blood pressure machine
- Pulse Oximeter Scale
Get connected. Ensure broadband or other fast internet is available, affordable, and easily accessible for video calls.
- Telehealth software must be easy to use for everyone involved. Make sure staff and students are trained and comfortable using the equipment needed for the telehealth appointment.
Tip: Screen for technology skills and communication preferences ahead of the virtual visit. Have administrative staff prepare patients for their telehealth appointment and provide instructions on what to expect. Schedule extra time before the appointment for patients to practice using the technology and ask questions.
- The Use of Telehealth in School-Based Health Centers — from the Rural Health Information Hub
- Telehealth Models for Increasing Access to Care Among Children — Rural Health Information Hub
- School-based Health Alliance Telehealth Resources — from the School-Based Health Alliance
- School-Based Telehealth Playbook — from the School-Based Health Alliance