Indiana Rural School Clinic Network expands high-tech rural telehealth
into Milan Elementary School
Margaret Mary Health provides trained medical professionals; many organizations help fund high-tech equipment
MILAN, Indiana – Elevated care, less disruption and better access to medical professionals represent critical benefits of the new telehealth center formally opening August 6 at the Milan Elementary School in Ripley County here. “With our Chromebooks and other initiatives, Milan Community Schools have positively and consistently leveraged technology to benefit our students and communities,” said Jane Rogers, Superintendent. “Becoming part of the Indiana Rural School Clinic Network represents a new means to provide convenient, high-quality health care services for our students.”
Cinda Ahlrich, principal of the Milan Elementary School, noted that the new technology service, which will typically connect to Nurse Practitioner Katie Davis at Milan Primary Care, allows elementary school children to be seen by a medical professional without leaving the school facility. “This elevates the level of care that we can provide our students in a timely way and fashion,” said Tammy Jutzi, health services coordinator and school nurse for Milan.
“Considering that our school is in a rural location, being able to digitally connect our students to the superb health care services associated with Margaret Mary Health creates a new dimension of service,” explained Ms. Rogers.
The August 6 ribbon-cutting at Milan was part of a recent expansion of the Indiana Rural School Clinic (IRSCN) in the region. A similar high-tech clinic was formally opened at Batesville Primary School on July 31. Both facilities are supported by Margaret Mary Health (MMH), and the high-tech equipment was funded by the Indiana Rural Health Association (IRHA), CareSource, the Margaret Mary Foundation, and the Ripley County Community Foundation. Margaret Mary Health, along with the schools, hopes to expand the number of school buildings that have the telehealth technology and continue to search for additional funders.
“We appreciate the opportunity to help elevate the availability of important health care services in rural schools,” said Angela Summers, a school-based health administrator with CareSource. “The high-tech diagnostic capability that IRSCN is helping to establish in Indiana rural schools fulfills a critical need.”
In addition to Superintendent Rogers and Principal Ahlrich, several local and county officials took part in the August 6 formal opening. These included Geralyn Litzinger, Community Health Director for Margaret Mary Health; Katie Davis, NP from Milan Primary Care, Ms. Jutzi from Milan Community Schools; and Kathleen Chelminiak, project director for IRSCN and the Indiana Rural Health Association.
The students at Milan Elementary and Batesville Primary School will now be able to see a doctor or medical provider through a video-conference. The clinics at the two schools use a digital stethoscope and other technology sensory tools to help a linking provider make a diagnosis. School nurses and related staff have received several hours of training on how to utilize the equipment.
Through the technology provided by the rural telehealth clinic, students and staff will have the opportunity to be seen by a remote healthcare provider who actually may be miles away from the school. All of this takes place at the elementary school, while the student (or staff member) remains at school. This reduces challenges that rural students can face when it comes to receiving quality healthcare during the school day.
Ms. Jutzi, the school nurse, will use digital diagnostic equipment and sensors transmitting through secure broadband connectivity from the school to facilities at MMH and Milan Primary Care. The School-based Telehealth Clinics in Milan and Batesville will service the telehealth portion with trained medical providers available to help students experiencing acute health symptoms.
“This technology naturally extends the capacity of our medical professionals to directly serve these children in rural educational settings,” said Geralyn Litzinger with MMH. “Ms. Davis and others at Milan Primary Care will provide timely and quality services in this innovative program.”
“Having quality healthcare services available online presents a major new benefit for our students and staff,” said Ms. Jutzi. “As the school nurse, I am confident this will help us provide excellent service in a timely manner with a minimal impact on parents and caregivers.”
“Our goal is to provide high quality healthcare quickly and remove any barriers to accessing primary care,” said Kathleen Chelminiak, project director of IRSCN.
To celebrate this critical clinic opening at the Milan Elementary School, a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Tuesday, August 6 at 4:15 pm. (EST) at the school with education, medical, hospital and agency officials and administrators. The Milan Elementary School is located at 412 East Carr Street, Milan Indiana 47031.
The medical professional or provider conducting the telehealth diagnostic session can also directly send follow-up information to the children’s physician and prescriptions directly to local pharmacies for pickup. To participate, children must have prior parent/guardian consent. Any fees are appropriately billed to insurance. No student will be denied coverage or treatment because of lack of ability to pay.
The ribbon-cutting included a description of the high-tech telehealth equipment to be used by the rural clinic, including a high-tech imaging stethoscope, dermscope, and otoscope in addition to customized video equipment and software platforms. The Milan and Batesville facilities are now a formal part of the Indiana Rural Schools Clinic Network (IRSCN).
Accessing health care in rural areas of Indiana is often more difficult because of factors like poverty, transportation and provider shortages.
“Through this innovative approach of incorporating telehealth into the school setting, we are confident children will receive quality healthcare that is more accessible to them than it ever has been before. Parents won’t have to take time off work, struggle with getting an appointment with their doctor or worry about transportation issues. They can now receive help in getting their children healthier, instead of the limitations they may face with seeking primary care during the school day,” said Don Kelso, IRHA executive director.
IRSCN has established telehealth clinics for schools at other facilities in Ripley County, Greene County and elsewhere in Indiana. The new school-based telehealth clinics in Batesville and Milan are funded through a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant made available to the Indiana Rural Health Association.