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Rotary hears of Telehealth program

Telehealth is predicted to be the coming thing in healthcare, especially in rural areas, according to Dr. Winston Price of Memorial Pediatrics.
He and Dr. April Aldridge of the Decatur County Schools presented a
program at Tuesday’s Rotary meeting about the Decatur County Telehealth Program currently being implemented in Jones Wheat and West Bainbridge Elementary Schools.
Described by Aldridge as “Facetime or Skyping on steroids,” the partnership between Memorial Hospital and the Decatur County Schools has put Bainbridge on the Georgia map. The local program has already been cited by the Georgia Department Partnership of Health and was recently profiled in a televised news program
In Sept. 2014 the partnership wrote the grant to fund the program. Hospital CEO Billy Walker said that at that time three grants were available, and thanks to the good grant-writing of Aldridge and Price, two of the three were awarded to Decatur County.
The telehealth partnership breaks down barriers of access to health care.
Its use in the two schools is available to children whose parents first complete the enrollment package, effectively giving permission for their child to participate. It is particularly useful in chronic or acute conditions where the child can be checked by the school nurse, who then contacts Memorial Pediatrics. The doctor is able to see the child, nurse etc. in real time and make any necessary evaluation or prescribe treatment. Care management is all documented.
Parents are advised of the telecommunications contact and may come to the school for the consultation or not.
It is said to save time for parents being away from work to take their child to a medical appointment, while reducing the time away from the classroom for the child. It was stressed that a child with a communicable condition is not returned to the classroom. It is also beneficial to parents who may not have transportation to and from the physician’s office. A case was cited where a student needed to have follow-up with a physician in Atlanta.  That was accomplished through the local telemedicine system without the family having to make the long trip to Atlanta.
Sustainability and growth of the program to additional schools depends upon support from the community and businesses.
“This is closing the health care gap, especially in rural areas,” said Price, who said the future possibilities of its use are growing. It is already being interfaced with the health department and with Bainbridge State College, where it is being taught to those receiving medical health education.