During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital systems nationwide scrambled to develop and implement telehealth platforms to safely communicate with and treat patients with non-emergent health needs. The same issues were also prevalent in the heart of Eastern Kentucky.

Thanks to a generous USDA Rural Health grant that was awarded just before the onset of the pandemic, Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) was already working on a new telehealth program to be offered in all 19 Pike County schools. In 2020, PMC launched the Healthy@School Telehealth Program, which allowed students and staff in the Pike County and Pikeville Independent school districts to be seen by a medical provider through a state-of-the-art telehealth system.

“We are extremely proud of the success of the PMC Healthy@School Telehealth Program,” explained PMC Chairman, President and CEO Donovan Blackburn. “When your child becomes ill while at school, getting them to a doctor can be very difficult. With this telehealth system, parents can rest assured their child is being evaluated by a medical provider who has experience working in an urgent care setting.”

The Healthy@School program has allowed PMC to provide advanced medical technology to the schools, giving students, faculty and staff access to a provider without having to leave the school. With the PMC telehealth program, the school nurse receives training on equipment that allows the medical provider at PMC to look into a patient’s eyes, ears, nose and throat as well as listen to their heartbeat and breathing. This state-of-the-art equipment allows the patient to experience a more in-depth virtual visit than what is offered with many other telehealth platforms by utilizing the school nurse to operate the equipment.

The nurse at each school also receives the training necessary to test a patient at the school for the flu or strep using testing kits provided by Pikeville Medical Center. When the PMC provider feels the patient needs prescription medication, it can be e-prescribed directly to the pharmacy. This allows parents or guardians to pick up the student from school, go by their chosen pharmacy if necessary and get them home and in a setting where they can rest and feel better much quicker.

The PMC Healthy@School Telehealth Program has been praised by the Pike County School District for offering these services in a rural area that presents challenges to families when it comes to access to quality healthcare.

“This telehealth program has truly been a game changer for our school system,” said Pike County School District Superintendent Dr. Reed Adkins. “Having this service for the past three years has allowed our students and faculty to be evaluated by a medical provider while at school, which has reduced potential absenteeism significantly. We are extremely thankful for PMC’s commitment to caring for the health of our students.”