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Starke County school opens fifth Telehealth Center in state

HAMLET, Ind. - A small school corporation in Starke County is getting a big boost to its healthcare as Oregon-Davis cuts the ribbon on its new Telehealth Center—the fifth one in the state.

The center is located right inside the elementary school and is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every school day.

HealthLinc gave ABC 57’s Jess Arnold a demonstration Monday.

“Our otoscope looks a little bit different than the ones you would normally see in the office, and you can see through the back of it, kind of cool, you can see what it looks like, and then at this point, it’s just like a normal otoscope, so I’m going to move your hair and put it right into the eardrum, and then you can see that right there on the screen. There’s your eardrum right there on the screen. Looks great,” said HealthLinc Site Manager, Angie Garner, holding an otoscope with a  camera in Jess’s ear.

Then, the patient can speak directly with a provider at Healthlinc in Knox right on the screen to diagnose him or her.

“Nikki our provider would see all the vitals. She would see the video on the left side of the screen. She would diagnose it accordingly, and she would call the medications into the pharmacy,” said Rikki Norman, HealthLinc’s representative, communicating virtually from Knox.

In a school system of less than 600, and the city of Hamlet with barely 200 more, HealthLinc says the Telehealth center is the ‘healthcare of the future.’

“Today that model is to go to the doctor’s office. This changes that dynamic and also lets us leverage our providers, and everyone knows there’s always a shortage of providers, and…especially with rural areas, It’s hard for parents to get their kids to school much less take off and take them to the doctor, so here the children don’t even have to leave,” said Beth Wrobel, HealthLinc’s CEO.

That’s why the Indiana Rural Health Association selected Oregon-Davis as their federal grant recipient.

“We look for rural communities that could really benefit from this program, where there’s a provider that’s excited and wants to participate and looking for a school where maybe access to care isn’t as easy as in other areas,” said IRHA Outreach Coordinator, Hayley Ready.

The closest hospitals to the school are about 15 minutes away in Knox and a little farther in Plymouth.

“One of the best benefits is when we look at instructional time for our students. Our students may not have to be taken out of school for an afternoon to go see a doctor or go the hospital. Our goal is for them to only miss instructional time for maybe ten minutes, when they go to the telehealth center,” said Don Harman, Superintendent for Oregon-Davis.

Numerous studies, including one from the National Center for Children in Poverty have found that chronic absenteeism corresponds significantly with lower achievement.

“It fills a big gap, and you got to love it when schools and community and the health community all work together to make that happen.—It doesn’t get any better than that, because it’s all about kids,” said Dona Roberts, Asthma and Environmental Health Specialist for the Indiana Department of Education.

The Indiana Rural Health Association said they plan to open four more Telehealth Centers in schools this year.

The goal is to cut the ribbon on five every year up until 2020.

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