Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communication Office
New Telecare Program Reaching Rural Children at School

Press Release Date:  Wednesday, March 01, 2006  
Contact Information:  Brett Hall
Jodi Whitaker
Troy Body

Gwenda Bond

Medicaid Commissioner Pledges Support for Expanded Telehealth Services

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Officials from the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services and Kentucky Telecare on Tuesday addressed members of the e-Health Network Board about a pilot program to provide health care services in schools across the state.

Through the program, health care providers use video-conferencing technology to treat patients. Three medical facilities, St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, Glasgow Family Practice Residency Program and the Lewis County Primary Care Center are equipped with the technology and currently are serving elementary, middle and high schools in their regions.

“This is a tremendous use of technology for Kentucky’s children,” said Governor Fletcher. “By providing access to quality health care to our most rural students, we are giving our students all the tools they need to succeed.”

“This is going to increase access for our kids,” said Medicaid Commissioner Shannon Turner. “It’s partnering with schools to provide what we hope will be a successful program, cutting down on absenteeism and providing medical care on site.” 

The Telehealth Network, which is administered by a board of professionals in health care, technology and government, was established in 2000. It was founded to provide better access to medical specialists not available in some communities.

The new pilot program builds on that goal, making telehealth technology available at schools to increase the quality of health care for many rural students.

Rep. Steve Nunn, R-Glasgow, Dr. Kimberly Williams, a physician at St. Claire, chair of the Telehealth Board and eHealth Network board member, and Rob Sprang, director of Kentucky Telecare, also played integral roles in getting the pilot program up and running.

Williams credited the program with helping to catch certain illnesses early, often preventing expensive trips to the emergency room. “As an emergency room physician, one of the things that always struck me was how many days a kid had been sick before they would show up in the emergency room and how often kids were sent to school when they were ill,” said Williams.

Several elementary, middle and high schools in these areas are now what are known as “spoke sites,” or areas that are camera equipped for patients to communicate with health care providers. They include:

  • Bath County Middle School
  • Botts Elementary School in Frenchburg
  • Olive Hill Elementary School
  • Rowan County High School
  • Rowan County Middle School
  • Clearfield Elementary School in Rowan County
  • McBrayer Elementary School
  • Rodburn Elementary School in Morehead
  • Tilden Hogge Elementary School in Rowan County
  • North Metcalfe Elementary School
  • Lewis County Middle School
  • Garrison Elementary School in Lewis County
  • Laurel Elementary School in Vanceburg
  • Tollesboro Elementary School in Lewis County.

Though relatively new, the schools’ pilot programs have been credited with bringing health care to remote areas where patients can sometimes be difficult to reach. “We had to bring health care as close to patients as possible,” said Sprang, talking to board members. “In many cases, that was the public schools.”

The program has a cost cap of $100,000 per calendar year. It is scheduled to last through Oct. 31, 2007.