In the United States, many children lack access to primary health care. Factors like distance, economic hardship, sociocultural norms, language, and lack of health literacy can all become barriers to families accessing the health care they need and deserve. Children facing barriers to care are more likely than others to not receive treatment or to be undertreated for primary care issues.
For all people, having access to primary care is associated with positive health outcomes. Primary care includes preventative care, early detection and treatment of disease and injury, and care for chronic and acute illness. When a child has access to primary care, their growth and development is consistently monitored, which enables their provider to identify notable patterns or shifts and catch early signs of problems that should be addressed. To have the best chance at a healthy future, it is essential that children receive consistent, culturally competent care from a medical provider.
One way to increase access to care is through broadening the use and adoption of telehealth services. For those with limited access to in-person primary care, telehealth offers on-demand access to medical providers. Telehealth can help connect patients with the care they need by eliminating several key barriers to accessing care.
How School Based Health Care Improves Access to Care for Children
Working in partnership with school initiators (nurses and trained staff), companies like Hazel Health provide children access to quality healthcare services in the school setting. Implemented as a stand-alone solution, or as a complimentary service to support existing school-based services, Hazel works with nurses, students services, counselors, and other school stakeholders to provide a seamless and unique healthcare experience.
Hazel medical providers (physicians, nurse practitioners, physician associates, and therapists) offer physical and mental health care, for a range of conditions including (but not limited to) headache, stomach ache, pinkeye, styes, menstrual cramps, minor injuries, sore throat, nosebleeds, nausea, fever, anxiety, depression, family issues, trauma, grief/loss, loneliness, and bullying.
How Hazel Works:
- To launch the program, Hazel provides the necessary technology, equipment, and supplies (tablet, cart, over the counter meds, etc.) and works with school stakeholders to obtain parent/guardian consent so students can access the service.
- Student visits the school nurse's office with a physical or mental health complaint.
- For a physical health visit, with approved consent from the parent or guardian, the initiator, often the school nurse, initiates a Hazel visit through the Hazel platform. The student is connected directly, within minutes, to a Hazel provider.
- The Hazel provider conducts a visit with the student. The provider assesses the student’s symptoms.
- Post visit, the Hazel provider sends a visit summary to the primary care physician (if the family has one) and the parent/guardian (if the student is under 18). When needed, Hazel coordinates additional care, which may include referrals to the school counselor, behavioral health, dental, vision, etc.
Hazel, an advocate for the student, seeks to ensure that the student receives the care they need when they need it. After a visit, the Hazel provider sends detailed visit notes to the parent/guardian, and works to ensure the student is connected to any community resources they may require.
Hazel Physical Health Screens Telehealth Pilot Program
To determine the value of using telehealth to fill medical gaps when students lack access to primary care, we conducted a 12-week long pilot study alongside a California school partner.
The goal of the pilot was to provide health screens to K-12 students that had not been seen by a physician in more than two years, and to explore the value of systematic screening to find and fill gaps in students' healthcare.
The objectives of the pilot program were to:
- Introduce the Hazel program in the school
- Understand students’ medical histories and identify any gaps in care that could be filled by Hazel or the school
- Administer high level screenings, including partial HEADSS assessment (part of a routine adolescent well visit), basic mental health screening (PHQ2/PHQ9 questionnaires), and SDoH needs screening
- Provide an opportunity for education, counseling, and/or medical advice for any health related questions the student may have
- Confirm that the student has a good support system in place (home, school, peers, etc.) and assist with any gaps
- Discuss COVID-19 vaccine/COVID-19 related questions or concerns