IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Missouri School District Approves New Telehealth Services

Joplin School District has contracted with the Freeman Health System to install equipment at 16 sites, allowing parents to tune in virtually and reducing the number of days people will miss due to illness or injury.

(TNS) — The Joplin Board of Education on Tuesday night approved the launch of a program to provide telehealth services from Freeman Health System at its school sites in Missouri .

The program aims to keep pupils and staff in the classroom and reduce the number of school days missed due to illness or injury. Once implemented, it will offer diagnosing and treatment services at school sites.

"The whole goal is early intervention and being able to treat those children and keep them in school," said Renee Denton, chief operating officer of Freeman Neosho. "We know that their opportunity for learning decreases every time they miss school."

As part of the program, Freeman will purchase and install telehealth equipment at up to nine sites by the end of the current school year, with equipment placed at the remaining sites by Jan. 1, 2023. Priority will be determined by Freeman in consultation with the school district, but the 16 sites expecting to be part of the program are the Joplin Early Childhood Center, all elementary schools and middle schools, Joplin High School and the former Duenweg Elementary School, which is the site of the Beacon program.

Services will be available to both employees and students. Before any health service is provided to a child, the school nurse will get permission from the child's parent or guardian to begin the telehealth consultation with the provider. From there, Freeman will be responsible for getting parental consent for treatment, pertinent health history and billing.

Parents can be virtually present at the visit through a secure link on their smartphone or other device. At the end of the visit, any needed medications can be called in to the pharmacy of choice. If further testing is needed, that request can be sent to Freeman or to another location.

Payment options for parents include billing insurance or Medicaid or paying a flat fee of $35. Patient records would remain with Freeman, and the school district wouldn't have access to those records without written parental consent.

The Freeman providers, to be staffed by at least one advance practice registered nurse or physician, would be based at the Neosho campus of the hospital. They would be available from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. weekdays.

For school district employees, Denton said the program doesn't aim to replace their primary care physician, nor does it intend to replace school nurses. But as with pupils, it could be beneficial to teachers and staff who need immediate care, she said.

"If I am at school today and I become ill, or I actually arrive to school ill — if I'm a faculty member and very dedicated, as we all know that they are — I just need to see someone to either be able to continue into my school day, or maybe get medical clearance to remain at school," she said. "All of these are geared toward care that can be delivered right here at school."

Board member Brent Jordan, who works at a neighboring school district, said he has used the program through his employer. He was at least a week away from being able to see his regular health care provider for allergies, but within hours of requesting a telehealth appointment, he was able to see a provider virtually and get approval for allergy medication, he said.

"I didn't miss any school," he said. "It's pretty awesome."

Tuesday's vote was unanimous, with board President Jeff Koch absent, but previous boards haven't warmed as much to school-based health services. Several years ago, the Joplin board rejected proposals for health clinics, with services offered by outside providers contracting with the district, based at Joplin High School and the Early Childhood Center.

©2021 The Joplin Globe (Joplin, Mo.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.