School-Based Telehealth Funds

To help children live healthier lives, the Karen S. Rheuban Center for Telehealth at the University of Virginia (UVA) Health System, is creating four school-based telehealth centers. Overall the project aims to help children with conditions from autism to asthma have better access to specialists and coordinated care in a region with a shortage of healthcare providers. 

The pilot program called “Better Health and Care for Kids, Parents, and Communities” (eBACKPAC) is being funded by a four year $1.1 million grant from HRSA The program will create community health centers based at two schools in Bland County and in two schools in Martinsville the next year.

Care teams will have several secure private tools to communicate such as the use of video conferencing and text messaging as well as devices that can transmit patient data, such as heart and long sounds, along with images from inside the ear and throat.

Kathy Wibberly, Director of the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center based at UVA’s Telehealth Center, reports that if the school health centers are successful in these two school districts, the hope is that the project would then be cost effective and sustainable. This would make it easy to expand the model throughout all rural school districts.

Also, there is a special need to treat children with autism remotely. CDC estimates that autism affects one in 68 individuals and is particularly prevalent among children. This rise in diagnosis has left many families and school systems struggling to cope with the challenges of a behavioral condition that can require highly skilled intensive treatment. For rural communities with limited resources, these challenges can be particularly acute.

To meet the need to help children with autism, UVA’s Telemedicine program is working with the Virginia Institute of Autism (VIA) to develop an effective program. David Gordon, Director of Telemedicine for the UVA Health System and his colleagues turned to the VIA since they have a 20 year history of developing programs that effectively address the core symptoms of autism.

Services on site will be augmented with special needs care to be provided remotely by VIA and UVA Health through state-of-the-art, secure video conferencing, and diagnosis technology. If successful, the program can serve as a model for using the technology to help provide care for children exhibiting autism in underserved rural communities.

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