School-Based Telemedicine Helped Kids Manage Asthma: Study

Throughout the United States, more than six million children suffer from asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each year, the disease is the reason behind more than two million emergency room visits (among children and adults), and accounts for more than $50 billion in health care costs. But one new study is highlighting the role that school-based telemedicine can play in the management of asthma, particularly in underserved communities. As MobiHealthNews first reported, research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found positive results, including reduced hospital visits and fewer asthma symptoms, among children enrolled in a school-based asthma management program that included telemedicine visits. Note the study’s authors, the majority of whom are based at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York, “The telemedicine model is one form of connected care that enhances access to medical services for traditionally underserved children and was an efficient way to link children to primary care and facilitate asthma assessment and treatment in this study.”

The researchers, noting that “poor adherence to recommended preventive asthma medications” is at the root of many asthma attacks and other complications, developed a program called the School-Based Telemedicine Enhanced Asthma Management (SB-TEAM). It enrolled 400 elementary-school children with asthma who attended school in the low-income Rochester City School District, randomly assigning some to a group that received the SB-TEAM intervention and assigning the rest to a control group. Students in the intervention group, along with “supervised administration of preventive asthma medication at school,” received “three school-based telemedicine visits to ensure appropriate assessment, preventive medication prescription, and follow-up care.” The results? As compared with the control group, the SB-TEAM students experienced fewer asthma symptoms, along with fewer hospitalizations and/or visits to the emergency room. Above all, “The SB-TEAM intervention significantly improved symptoms and reduced health care utilization among urban children with persistent asthma,” the study’s authors write. What’s more, it “could serve as a model for sustainable asthma care among school-aged children.”

For numerous students and their families in rural and underserved communities, the more than 2,000 school-based health centers in the United States—many of which use telemedicine—provide a lifeline. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided a key source of funding for many of these centers, as it allotted $200 million for school-based health centers, allowing for the construction of new centers and the refurbishment of existing ones. Some states, too, have sought to bolster school-based telemedicine programs. In New York, for example, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) this past September signed A4703, which expands the state’s list of eligible originating sites to include schools (public, private, and charter), child care programs, and day care centers. The new law means that health care providers, including physicians, mental health practitioners, and dentists, will be able to receive reimbursement from Medicaid and private insurers for care that they provide at schools.

Click here to read the MobiHealthNews article on the study of school-based telemedicine for asthma management.

Click here to read the JAMA Pediatrics article on the use of school-based telemedicine for asthma management.

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