Health care to expand in Carson City schools
Health care services at some Carson City schools will expand next school year thanks to a new program from Nevada Health Centers.
The Carson City-based health care provider plans to roll out its telehealth carts to eight schools in the city starting in August with the first two, most likely Empire Elementary and Carson High School.
The telehealth carts will be used to connect with physicians remotely with a school nurse present to assist in the exam. Parents can be linked in remotely, too, via their smart phones or computer.
“Mom and dad can click to connect. We use VisuWell, secure and encrypted conferencing software,” said Corie Nieto, director, telehealth services, Nevada Health Centers.
Parents will be given a consent form to sign at the beginning of the school year and those who want to participate in the program will be called and offered the option to link in if and when their child is seen by a remote doctor.
Carson City School District already works with Nevada Health Centers, which operates a clinic office on Musser Street on Tuesdays and Thursdays for students and their family members. A telehealth cart was dispatched there last month while the physician is on maternity leave and three pediatric visits already have been conducted using it.
Early this year, Nevada Health Centers deployed telehealth carts to its clinics in Austin, Carlin, Elko, Jackpot, Virginia City, Wendover, and Carson City, and then launched the program in April.
In the program’s first month, 82 patients were seen systemwide by 13 remote providers with certified medical assistants trained on the system assisting locally.
The physicians are generally located in rural areas such as Jackpot without a full schedule or newer doctors who are still available to take clients.
“We looked at physicians who were booked 50 percent or less and asked them if they wanted to take part,” said Nieto.
The doctors are essentially on call in their office ready to be remotely scheduled by one of the participating clinics. Monitoring equipment can be used by the medical assistant in the exam room and the results seen by the remote doc. A stethoscope, for example, can be heard by the physician or an otoscope equipped with a camera produces a picture the doctor can see and enlarge.
The main driver for patients is convenience.
“It’s wait time. Patients prioritize access over face-to-face care,” said Nieto.
She said the experience is surprisingly intimate.
“A virtual appointment is very focused. It feels like the provider is 100 percent dedicated to you and your illness,” said Nieto.
In Carson City, 35 patients opted for the telehealth cart in the first month. The clinic sees as many as 100 patients a day. One day last week, the clinic had 95 appointments and no no-shows so walk-in clients arriving at 8 a.m. might be told they had to wait until 4 p.m. to see someone locally.
Nevada Health Centers is waiting for a Nevada Department of Health and Human Services grant to see if it can roll out the program to six more Carson City schools, two per quarter, and a total of 15 schools in Elko County.
“I’ve never seen telehealth adopted as well as it has been here,” said Nieto. “I don’t know if the front desk is excited about it and exciting patients about it. I do know access to care is important.”