IRSCN partners work with community to share telehealth resources

Posted by: Heidi Malone | Thursday, March 26, 2020

Amid the novel COVID-19 crisis, the high demand for healthcare coupled with social distancing guidelines has led many rural providers to turn to telehealth.  Obtaining telehealth equipment to do so quickly was just one of the challenges they faced.  The Indiana Rural Schools Clinic Network (IRSCN), under the umbrella of the Indiana Rural Health Association (IRHA), is helping to fill that need. IRSCN is a four-year grant funded program through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Office for the Advancement of Telehealth (OAT) to place telehealth technology in rural schools and connect them to local healthcare partners.  In doing this, they have increased access to not only acute physical care, but also behavioral care in some areas.   

As the state-mandated school closures went into effect, IRSCN, with the support of HRSA, worked with rural healthcare partners to help increase telehealth availability and presence in their respective communities.  Many schools have temporarily relocated the telehealth technology currently not being used in the schools to a healthcare clinic or other remote healthcare location in their community. Partners working together to make this move include the counties of Daviess, Greene, Owen, Ripley, Scott, Spencer, and Steuben. As a result, hospitals are able to communicate virtually with patients and hopefully reduce the influx into emergency departments and waiting rooms and help protect healthcare providers from potential exposure to COVID-19. 

Through these temporary relocations and changes within the program, the IRHA, HRSA and rural Indiana healthcare partners hope to slow the infection rates in rural communities and help control the spread of the virus across the state.  The IRHA wants to thank our school and healthcare partners for their dedication and continues to be inspired by the high quality care and compassion our partners provide to their communities.

About the Indiana Rural Schools Clinic Network (IRSCN)

The IRSCN is a collaborative partnership between the Indiana Rural Health Association, Rural Indiana Schools, Rural Healthcare Providers, and Managed Care Entities. In September 2016, the Indiana Rural Health Association was awarded a HRSA grant that provided the ability to fund telehealth equipment in participating IRSCN Schools.

Since its beginnings, IRSCN has grown across the state with over 34 school clinics now open with telehealth programs.  It has hosted over 1,200 remote telehealth visits between school clinics and rural providers.  For the 2019-2020 school year alone, IRSCN has saved families almost 10,000 miles and countless hours traveling to and from a physician’s office.  The program is led by IRHA Project Director, Kathleen Chelminiak and IRHA Project Coordinator, Bryce Wray-Nelson. For more information, please visit: https://www.indianaruralhealth.org/services/indiana-rural-schools-clinic-network/