A school-based health clinic in Austin will be opening its doors in 2017.
Created through a partnership with the Indiana Rural School Clinic Network (IRSCN) and school districts in Austin, Crothersville and Hanover, the clinic will combine in-person care along with the new version of healthcare, telehealth.
Rural residents and low-income families often face difficulties in accessing quality healthcare for their children. The new IRSCN will focus on serving for students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 who are enrolled in the three participating school districts. parents can also use the clinic for acute needs. Students, however, will always be seen first before other patients.
Additional information about the clinic will be released in coming weeks, Scott School District 1 school officials said.
In announcing the new clinic, IRSCN executive director Don Kelso explained that the rural telehealth network will offer parents the opportunity to be linked with physicians for in-school primary healthcare.
Telehealth, essentially long-distance or remote diagnosis via technology, is a new concept for Indiana, Kelso noted.
“For this particular clinic, students can be seen either at the onsite school clinic in Austin or via (the) telehealth (system) by the same providers. When a child is sick, he or she will go to the school nurse. The nurse makes the decision on whether the child needs to be seen by a doctor. If so, the parent is called and asked if he/she wishes to join the visit,” explained Jenni Hill, IRSCN manager.
Parental/guardian consent forms to participate in the new system have already been completed by the school districts. Consequently, the school nurse can schedule the onsite or telehealth virtual appointment for the sick child.
If the child needs to be seen by a doctor, a school representative will transport the child to the clinic.
The telehealth system allows the child to be examined by the school nurse so that a good decision can be made on how to properly handle the child’s problem. “During the telehealth process, the nurse is basically the doctor’s hands and can perform non-invasive scopes and other diagnostic equipment. The doctor can then diagnose and call in prescriptions for the child as needed,” explained Hill.
In Austin, the clinic will be housed in the original administration building, located at the southeast corner of U.S. Highway 31 South and Howard Street. Parking for visitors will be located behind the brick building off Howard St.
The structure used to house the Austin Police Department. Work has been under way for several weeks to transform it into the new health clinic.
The Southern Indiana Rural Health Clinic is the second school-based telehealth clinic to open in Indiana. The Indiana Rural Health Association (IRHA) received a planning grant last June to establish school-based telehealth clinics. Such clinics can provide resources and support for current and future school-based health clinics. The community of Elwood in northwest Indiana has been operating its clinic since early September. Six more school systems are expected to add school-based telehealth this school year.
“Delivering high-quality healthcare to rural school children is a pressing need across Indiana. The state presently lags behind other states which have allocated funding specifically for school-based health clinics. IRHA’s goal is to change that, and we will take initial steps to achieve this through the implementation of IRSCN and the use of telehealth technology,” advised Kelso.
He added, “Through IRSCN and our grants, we can bring the next level of medical care to our youngest Indiana residents and establish telehealth best practices as we move forward.”