Good Samaritan Hospital is expanding its partnership with the Vincennes Community School Corp., offering on-site, virtual doctor's visits and now mental health counseling to students.

Officials on Oct. 15 will officially kick off the pilot Telehealth program, a partnership with the Indiana Rural Schools Clinic Network to allow virtual doctor's visits inside the school under the direct supervision of school nursing staff.

The school board approved the partnership this spring, allowing for it to be piloted at Francis Vigo Elementary School. If it goes well, it could be expanded to other VCSC schools as well.

“I am excited for our students and parents,” said superintendent Greg Parsley. “Working with Good Samaritan allows us to offer an additional service beyond what many of us think of when it comes to the school setting.

“Our goal is to provide the best education possible to our students and their attendance has a great effect on their education,” he said. “Keeping the students in school will ensure that we are meeting that goal.”

When a student isn't feeling well, he or she can go to the school nurses' office and utilize equipment provided by Good Samaritan, and be seen virtually by a local physician. Parent consent is required.

The intent is to cut down on students being out of the building for doctor visits but to also to be sure they're getting the necessary medical care they need. It also potentially reduces the times parents need to be gone from work in the event their child becomes sick at school.

Vigo's health office is already equipped with diagnostic digital equipment, including a digital stethoscope. The software used by both the hospital and the school corporation will allow the school nurse to perform preliminary diagnostic steps before the appointment.

When the virtual visit is complete, the school nurse will then check back with parents to tell them the diagnosis and explain the necessary next steps.

Prescribed medications, if warranted, can also be sent directly to the nurse.

Parents or guardians would be billed through the hospital, Parsley has said, so inclusion in the Telehealth program comes at no cost to the school district. As is typical, the hospital will bill Medicaid, insurance providers or allow parents to self-pay.

“I have already had students and parents in my office wanting to use the service,” said Sara Schutz, the school corporation's head nurse. “I foresee Telehealth being very beneficial to our working parents as they will not have to leave work to take their child to the doctor for something that does not require them to stay home from school.

“If there is a student that can stay at school but could benefit from being seen by a provider, Telehealth appointments will be same-day and there will be no waiting for the next available appointment at a provider’s office,” she said.
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