What Are the Implications of Telemedicine in Public Schools?

Imagine the public school your child attends setting up a virtual health clinic powered by telemedicine solutions. Would that sound good to you? Many parents would welcome such services under the premise of improving the health and well-being of public-school students. But what are the implications of outfitting schools with telemedicine kiosks and clinics?

Parents in the Puyallup, Washington School District may have to start thinking those implications through if the local school boards plan to expand in-school healthcare moves forward. The school district currently contracts with Hazel Health to offer limited healthcare services on campus. But now the school board wants to expand that partnership through telehealth services.

If the plan moves forward, it would be theoretically possible for local students to interact directly with healthcare providers for all sorts of primary care needs. They would be able to seek professional help for issues ranging from anxiety to depression. Once again, it all sounds good. But what role do parents play in all of this?

  • Cutting-Edge Healthcare Technology

There is no arguing that modern healthcare telemedicine solutions represent cutting-edge technology. Companies like San Antonio-based CSI Health are designing and building state-of-the-art mobile units and telemedicine kiosks with complete on-board diagnostics.

In addition to videoconferencing, modern telehealth solutions can monitor heart rate, check blood pressure, and even offer EKG and ultrasound capabilities, all while sending data to healthcare provider networks in real time. But offering such services in a public-school setting, to minors no less, opens the door to issues that have to be carefully considered.

  • Parents Are Still Legal Guardians

Common sense dictates that parents should have the final say in all healthcare decisions regarding the children, just by virtue of being parents. But even if that is not enough for school officials, parents remain the legal guardians of their children at all times. Legal guardianship is not transferred to school officials when children step off the bus.

Unfortunately, asserting a parent’s right to manage the health and well-being of a child is now considered controversial. It is taboo. All across the country, school boards and superintendents are pushing back against parents who want a say. School administrators and teachers seem to be going out of their way to keep parents in the dark about what goes on inside school walls.

All of this is disconcerting enough when you are talking about things like curriculum and class topics. But you up the ante when you throw in healthcare services. Plenty of parents do not think it is a wise idea for local school districts to be setting up telemedicine health clinics on campus. School is not the place children should be seeking healthcare services.

  • Time for Official Policies

Telemedicine’s day has arrived. Thanks to companies like CSI Health, telemedicine kiosks and remote clinics are capable of providing real-time diagnostics and simultaneous videoconferencing. It is safe to say that today’s telemedicine solutions are light years ahead of the blood pressure booths made popular in the 1970s.

All of this suggests that now is the time to start developing comprehensive telehealth policies. Organizations ranging from public schools to corporate employers need to figure out how they are going to address telemedicine before things get out of hand. Otherwise, we could be opening the door to making an already broken healthcare system even worse.

Parents in Puyallup, Washington may have to start considering the implications of telemedicine in schools. The rest of us would be wise to pay attention to what happens there. Telemedicine could be coming to all our schools in the not-too-distant future.