School districts have turned to innovative solutions that address student health needs to combat growing concerns about student well-being, absenteeism, unfinished learning, and learning loss. School-based telehealth is one solution school districts are implementing to meet the growing health needs of their students. With school-based telehealth, students connect for secure video visits and appointments with licensed mental and physical health care providers for comprehensive evaluation and treatment.
School-based telehealth benefits students by enabling them to return to class after a telehealth visit instead of being sent home as they usually would without a provider's evaluation. The student is able to stay in school and learn, and the parent or guardian avoids having to miss work to pick up the student and take them home or to a doctor's appointment.
For families, school-based telehealth is a game changer. It brings care directly to students where they are, where they already spend much of their time–in school. School-based telehealth reduces or eliminates many barriers to care for students and their families. Students can access care without long wait times and avoid being burdened by provider shortages. Guardians do not have to miss work or worry about transportation to and from a doctor or therapist appointment. Children can access Hazel from home, allowing families to address medical concerns before the child goes to school. For families experiencing financial barriers, many school-based telehealth services, like Hazel Health, are no-cost families.
Expanding the scope of the school nurse
School-based telehealth improves access to qualified physical and mental health providers. Via telehealth (with permission from a legal guardian), students can connect with a licensed medical provider or therapist to address their medical or mental health concerns. Access to health care helps students remain in class and focused on learning.
School nurses and counselors play a critical role in minimizing disruption to children's education by managing conditions such as diabetes, asthma, life-threatening allergies, seizures, ADHD, developmental disorders, and some behavioral health needs at school, but other conditions, such as a bacterial infection, might require input from a physician or specialist. Without telehealth access, children need to leave school for those visits.
School health staff are essential in minimizing disruption to students' education by managing physical and mental health concerns. They often need additional support from a physician or counselor. With telehealth access, students do not have to leave school to access a physician or counselor.
Additionally, school districts can address the growing school nurse and counselor shortage by offering telehealth services. In the United States, only 14 percent of school districts met the ratio of one school counselor to 250 students recommended by the American School Counselor Association during the 2020-21 school year. During the same year, the average national student-to-counselor ratio was 415:1. The National Association of School Nurses recommends a ratio of 1 school nurse for every 750 students. Today, the national average is 1:1,471. This massive shortage is coming when students need more support than ever before. Telehealth can help school districts fill these gaps by expanding staff capacity, and enabling access to qualified providers across state lines.
School-based health services do not replace the role of the school nurse or counselor. Instead, they augment their expertise, serving as an extension and support. With school-based telehealth, school health staff can help students more holistically and ensure students get the care and treatment they need and deserve. =
School-based mental health services
Mental health challenges are the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes for young people, and across the country, mental health concerns among students are growing. Students are experiencing more mental health challenges than ever before, and many cannot access the support they need. Many students' symptoms worsen without access to mental health support, and their well-being and academic performance are often negatively impacted.
School-based telehealth enables students to connect with a licensed therapist for a video visit in a private location within the school setting. For a student to access Hazel's mental health service, a parent or guardian must consent by completing a consent form. Students over 18 can consent for services, and minor consent is an option in some states, like Colorado.
Therapists help students understand and cope with their feelings via secure video appointments. They use evidence-based strategies to help students with their mental health concerns. Common mental health challenges students use Hazel therapy for include:
- Peer and family relationships
- Anger management
- Academic stress
- Navigating important life events
During therapy, the student and therapist identify and practice strategies to cope, and the therapist supports the student in developing a plan to start to feel better.