Hospital working toward Telehealth pilot program at Natchitoches Magnet, looks to bring health equity to all schools in Natchitoches Parish
The Natchitoches Parish School District is working to invest ESSER money into a digital telehealth clinic system that will be a big benefit to rural areas that don’t have access to healthcare. The pilot program will begin at Natchitoches Magnet.
Magnet was chosen both because of the distance between its campus and the hospital and the fact that it covers pre-k through eighth grade, which would give the hospital the best kind of litmus tests for expanding this elsewhere.
Details are being ironed out, but the goal is to start the pilot program at Magnet as soon as March, barring any unforeseen circumstances. The hospital would like to have the program in almost every school by the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
“We got into Telehealth in a big way with the onset of Covid,” said Natchitoches Regional Medical Center Executive Director Kirk Soileau, who gave a presentation at the board’s committee meeting on Feb. 8. “When everything shut down we had no other way to be able to connect to our patients.”
The hospital has developed its infrastructure around telehealth at its walk-in clinic, which is at 740 Keyser Avenue. This service is actually expanding to take over one entire side of the building to create a telehealth hub where the hospital will have nurse practitioners that answer and respond to all telehealth visits.
“We see this as twofold,” said Soileau. “It’s a great opportunity for us to be able to provide access to care to those people that don’t have access to services and what a good way to be able to do it but inside the school systems.”
Not all the schools have nurse practitioners or clinics inside of them, so this is an opportunity
for NRMC to continue to further partner with the school board to provide that service there through telehealth robots
This Telehealth service was recently launched at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA). It’s been working very well. There’s even testing on site with the school’s nurse. The hospital’s nurse practitioner dials in so they can listen to the heart, look in the student’s eyes, listen to breathing, etc… Everything is run through stethoscopes and equipment that’s connected to the machine. The nurse practitioner will then order a strep test or flu test.
Parents will give their consent to allow the hospital to provide these non invasive health screening. There will be communication with the parents to let them know if the child needs medication, etc… As the hospital moves forward with the opening of its outpatient pharmacy on April 1, they can even begin to prescribe medications and deliver those either to the school or to the student’s home.
This doesn’t replace the primary care physician’s role in the patient’s life for ongoing care. It’s just a matter of getting a quick visit for sick care in a timely manner
“We’ll see how this works the rest of the semester and then continue the dialogue on how we can potentially broaden that service to a bigger audience,” Soileau explained.