Lenoir City Schools is introducing a new telehealth program in the 2020-21 school year.

Mary Harding, former Lenoir City Coordinated School Health coordinator, worked on bringing telehealth opportunities to the district for about five years, Wendy Stooksbury, Lenoir City Schools Coordinated School Health director, said. She visited other school districts using telehealth methods to see what works best.

“Ultimately, the goal is to keep our students healthy while maintaining good attendance and a plus for parents not to have to miss work,” Stooksbury said. “Telehealth is a perfect avenue for that. With parental consent, telemedicine allows the student to get help for everyday health issues. Telehealth is not an answer for all problems, especially those that are more critical, but can serve for your typical everyday occurrences like sore throat, rash, fever, cold.”

Stooksbury said one of the biggest concerns was finding a doctor to get on board until Dr. Seyd Amer, Pediatric Choice Clinic pediatrician, agreed to participate. The next concern was equipment.

Jeanne Barker, Lenoir City director of schools, said the district received a donation of telehealth equipment from Lebanon Special School District where she previously worked as associate superintendent. The donated equipment was valued at $120,000.

Stooksbury said some of the donated equipment needs to be replaced, and she is working to write a grant.

“Every year we focus on a physical education component, a nutrition component, a health education component and a family engagement component and we’ve done that every year since the conception of this program,” Harding said. “This year we focused on trying to get our telemed program up and running which really we are so close to getting it totally operational. … Dr. Amer’s office is going to provide the software costs, all of the infrastructure costs and we were able to get all of the six telemed pieces of equipment donated to the school system. We’ll have one stationed at each school.”

With parental consent, a student will be scheduled for an appointment with Amer if they show symptoms that need attention, Stooksbury said.

“Once a time slot is available, the school nurse, student, and if the parent chooses, attends through telecommunications to begin the process of conversing with Dr. Amer’s (Physician’s Assistant) through cameras and screens,” she said. “The PA will ask questions and have the nurse assess several things, like temperature, ears, mouth and eventually arriving at an answer while viewing everything via the camera on screen.”

Harding said Amer will offer other services such as instant strep tests.

Barker said many people have had experience with telehealth visits since the pandemic started, so it’s no longer new.

Matthew Tinker, Loudon County high school supervisor and career and technical education director, said telehealth may be a future venture for Loudon County Schools.

“Our priority right now is figuring out our procedures for the next year and establishing those, and then Mike (Garren, director of schools) and I might start thinking more about telehealth options,” he said.