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Southern Indiana School Districts Testing Long-Distance Digital Doctor Visits

Posted by: Tina Elliott  | November 28, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- In Crothersville, Ind., every kid in town goes to the same school: 450 students a day, every day -- Kindergarten through 12th grade -- and when one of them gets sick, care falls on the school secretary, Angie Keasler.

"I have no professional medical training," Keasler said. "I'll go ahead and give them Ibuprofen or a cough drop, that sort of thing."

Keasler says she practices "mom medicine."

"It's a little intimidating when you see them, and you know they're hurting, and they need help," she said. "And if you don't have the right education ... it's tough."

Crothersville Community Schools, the Scott County School District and Southwestern Jefferson County Schools Consolidated are the first southern Indiana school districts offering sick students a digital doctors visit.

The school staff works as the hands while a licensed nurse, nurse practitioner or physician conducts an exam via video chat.

"Can you really give a good diagnosis without seeing the patient in person?" asked WDRB's Gilbert Corsey.

"Yes, I think you can," said Mark Bostic, a nurse practitioner. "With good visuals and good technology, look in the throat, ears, listen to the heart, lungs, ask some questions ... you can do quite a bit of diagnostic treatment."

The benefits are that it can save a parent a doctor's visit and help small school districts where budgets are tight and nurses are few. The downside is that a trip to a school nurse is free, while this program bills a parent's insurance. Plus, connectivity can be a challenge in rural areas, something we saw firsthand during demonstrations.

But Keasler is hopeful that a digital doctor's visit passes the test.

"Usually on top of my normal duties, I will see kids coming in throughout the day, all day, everyday," she said.

Crothersville does have a school nurse one day a week and it's expected that she will stay on staff. The school must get the okay from parents before a Telehealth visit.

Copyright 2016 by WDRB Media. All rights reserved.

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