Mercer initiative allows rural school district to see doctor without leaving school
MACON, Ga. (WALB) - A new Mercer University telehealth initiative is making it possible for students and staff at one rural Georgia school district to see a doctor — all while at school.
Mercer Medicine made it accessible for students and staff in the Harris County School District to visit a doctor on campus without fear of absences being counted against them.
Before April 2022, there were not any full-time primary physicians in Hamilton, the county seat of Harris County. This led to Dr. David Kay and the faculty of Mercer Medicine opening the fifth rural Georgia primary clinic.
Since COVID-19, student and faculty absences have increased, affecting student performance and achievements.
University officials said parents had to leave their jobs to transport kids to doctors’ offices 30-40 minutes away, which could only take more time after actually arriving at the site.
Using newly found technology allows Kay and Nurse Practitioner Amanda Lee to advise the doctor to visit remotely, such as checking vital signs and any other examinations needed. However, the telehealth workstation has fine cameras that can enlarge images of the body that you are unable to identify in person during the examination process.
“This medical equipment is a high-definition camera system that honestly gives me a much better picture than if I was sitting in front of the patient,” Kay said. “When I do an ear exam on a child, you often can only see a small portion of the eardrum, but with these high-definition cameras, they can place the otoscope in the ear, and now you`ve got a magnified image of the eardrum.”
Regarding the diagnosis, students are either returning back to the classroom within 45 minutes or parents will be asked to pick the up afterward.
The telehealth workstation was supported by the Global Partnership for Telehealth, which was also funded by the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center, Harris County Board of Commissioners, CareSource and the Loudermilk Family Foundation. The partnerships have trained school nurses and gifted more technical support.
This finding has also given high school students interested in the healthcare pathway chances to job shadow professionals rather than driving to Columbus or Lagrange.
In the near future, the program has high hopes to extend prescription drug delivery to schools and also attach telehealth mental health services.
“Our mission is to almost too be an urgent care for the schools. Our goal is to cut down on the number of students missing school and cut down on the number of students having to leave school because of this illness,” Kay said.
For more information on telehealth, visit den.mercer.edu
Copyright 2023 WALB. All rights reserved.