More than 170,000 of Georgia’s 1.8 million school-age children stay home sick from school more than six days a year. Absenteeism has a direct impact on academic achievement, including reading below grade level and increased probability of becoming a high school dropout. And that impact is heightened after six days. The top two leading causes of student absence are health related. While illness is not the only reason that children may miss school, increasing a school’s ability to address health concerns holds promise as it relates to reducing student absences and improving academic performance.
The use of telehealth to increase children and families’ access to health care is a growing practice in Georgia. Within the last five years, school-based telehealth (SBTH) programs began emerging as a valuable tool for providing children primary, acute, and specialty care. While telehealth adoption has increased, several entities, including schools, have experienced barriers to implementation and utilization.
To identify the key components of successful SBTH programs, barriers to implementation, and the practices that address the barriers to success, Voices for Georgia’s Children (Voices) conducted a literature review and a case study of two different SBTH models in Georgia — a rural school-based health center (SBHC) program in North Georgia and a school nurse-based program in an Atlanta-area school. The rural site partnered with a regional federally qualified health center (FQHC), while the Atlanta-area site partnered with a local children’s health care provider.