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WellCare, Georgia Partnership for Telehealth, Appling HealthCare System open school-based health centers

A trip to the school nurse is now more like a trip to the doctor’s office at two Appling County, Georgia schools.

WellCare Health Plans, Inc, in partnership with Georgia Partnership for Telehealth and Appling HealthCare System, helped open two new school-based health centers at Appling County Elementary and Appling County High schools.

WellCare provided the funding to equip these schools with telehealth systems that will allow school nurses to connect injured and sick students and faculty to health care providers at Appling HealthCare System via a video conference.

How it works: If a student is sick enough to merit a trip to the doctor’s office, the school nurse, with parental consent, will immediately reach out to an appropriate Appling HealthCare provider. The physician will video conference with the nurse and student, and if medication is needed, can send a prescription to a local pharmacy for the student’s parents to pick up. The telehealth systems will serve approximately 240 students and faculty at these two schools.

In addition, school nurses also will have access to approximately 150 specialists in the GPT network of providers from facilities across the state.

“WellCare is committed to increasing access to health care for those in rural and underserved communities like Appling County,” said Dr. John Alexander Johnson, senior medical director for WellCare of Georgia. “Telehealth is an easy, convenient and effective way to increase access to care, as it can provide an array of services that include assessment and diagnosis, medication management and individual and group therapy.”

GPT currently works with 63 schools in Georgia to implement school-based telehealth centers, said Sherrie Williams, executive director of Georgia Partnership for Telehealth.

“We know firsthand the impact this access to care affords,” she said. “Not only can students and staff receive primary care at school, they can also receive care from specialists such as Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. It’s no secret that healthier children are better learners. GPT has worked closely with WellCare on similar projects and we are proud to partner again on the Appling initiative.”

“We were extremely excited when Appling HealthCare’s CEO Andy Smith met with us along with Georgia Partnership for Telehealth representatives to inform us that we had received a grant from WellCare to pilot telemedicine,” said Dr. Scarlett M. Copeland, superintendent of Appling County Schools. “This was a great opportunity to positively impact health care in our school district. We believe this will be a wonderful service for students and their parents who choose to participate.”

School officials hope the new telehealth system will lead to higher attendance rates, which could impact student learning and help improve test scores.

“Telemedicine is a tangible and affordable way to expand access to specialists and access to care in rural areas,” said Robin Crosby, director of education/marketing for Appling HealthCare System. “We are excited to provide this service to our community.”

A Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant has expanded school-based health centers for all schools in Appling County.