Developing a school-based telehealth strategy
Identify what will make your program successful both in the short and long term. Develop a strategic plan to start up, maintain, and grow your school-based telehealth program.
Creating a school-based telehealth plan
An implementation plan is key to a successful telehealth program.
- Design your approach to hiring, staff training, workflows, infrastructure and IT needs, and patient communication.
- Determine funding needed and available to cover short and long-term costs.
- Does the school have funds to support the telehealth program?
- Does your state or other entity offer any grants for funding school health programs?
- See National Telehealth Resource Centers (TRC) Webinar: The 411 on Telehealth Funding (video) for tips on how to get started.
- Identify health care providers needed for your telehealth program. Consider the types of health care specialties your students may need.
- Understand the availability of the health care provider to provide telehealth services.
- Design and implement a workflow for school administration and the health care provider’s office.
- Find out if the health care provider already offers telehealth services.
- Get the community excited about your school-based telehealth program.
- Develop a marketing strategy to share what you are doing.
- Tell parents and guardians the advantages of using school-based telehealth. Include cost information, especially if visits are free or low cost. Share that school-based telehealth visits save travel time and time away from work for parents and guardians.
- Involve students with poster campaigns, morning announcements, or email blasts.
Tracking the success of your program
It is important to assess if your program is meeting its goals. Consider the following when developing an evaluation strategy:
- What is important to your school when offering school-based telehealth?
- What goals do you want to achieve with your telehealth program?
- Does your student population have common health issues such as asthma, obesity, diabetes, or substance abuse?
Use data to show the positive impact your program has had on students. This will encourage participation and facilitate program sustainability. Examples of positive impacts may include:
- Fewer school days missed for patients who use school-based telehealth for primary care vs. those that do not.
- Schools can track days missed by students complaining of earaches that see a health care provider in school and those that do not.
- Fewer school days missed for students who use school-based telehealth for behavioral health vs. those that do not
- Schools can track missed school days for patients/students going through a specific crisis (such as parents’ divorce or losing a loved one) who receive behavioral health care through the school-based program against those who do not participate.
- Schools can work with community sources like hospitals and local emergency services to track the number of student overdoses, alcohol poisoning incidents, or student suicide attempts and see if there is a decrease after the implementation of your school-based telehealth program.
- Students with diabetes participating in school-based telehealth could track average weekly blood glucose levels for trends.
Monitor your services regularly and analyze your data to share the success and make adjustments.
- Implementation Considerations for Telehealth Programs Serving Children — from the Rural Health Information Hub
- Launching Data Collection on a Common Set of Measures for the School-Based Telehealth Network Grant Program Evaluation - from the Rural Health Research Gateway
- Telehealth campaign toolkit — from the National Rural Health Resource Center
- Digital Health Implementation Playbook Step 7: Designing the Workflow (PDF)
- Great Plains Telehealth Resource & Assistance Center : Resources
University of Virginia (UVA)
University of Virginia uses telehealth services to meet the needs of underserved and rural populations in the Commonwealth of Virginia. UVA set up school-based telehealth in four school systems by partnering with local Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).
Two key successes in their school-based telehealth programs are first, having a community champion. This allows communities to share their lessons learned and success stories.
Secondly, using telehealth to educate school nurses, teachers, and parents on key health issues. They also partnered with the Virginia Institute of Autism to train school nurses and special education teachers on working with students with autism.
Read more about the University of Virginia’s school-based telehealth centers.