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Home » » TelePulmonology Comes to Bassett’s School-Based Health Centers

TelePulmonology Comes to Bassett’s School-Based Health Centers

Written By Editor on 9/16/21 | 9/16/21

Last spring Bassett’s School Based Health Centers (SBHC) launched telepulmonology services to connect its young patients with important sub-specialist care.


“School-Based Health is all about increasing health care access for our young people,” says Jane Hamilton, RN, School-Based Health Practice Manager. “These tele-visit consults are more comfortable in a familiar office and don’t require parents to miss a full day of work to travel for an appointment. This helps ensure the kids can get the care they need.”


The distance between Dr. Karen Zuidema Voter, pediatric pulmonology specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and her patients is bridged by real time telehealth technology and the SBHC’s practitioners.


“We complete the physical requirements of the exam,” explains Hamilton. “The SBHC practitioner onsite listens through a stethoscope plugged into the computer. Meanwhile, Dr. Voter listens to the lung sounds through headphones in Rochester. If Dr. Voter needs something examined—like whether the patient’s abdomen is sensitive—the practitioner will relate what she feels while Dr. Voter watches the child’s face for signs of pain.”


Forward Momentum

Telepulmonology is SBHC’s newest telehealth service, but it is not its first, nor will it be its last. “We were the recipients of a HRSA Telemedicine Grant for School Based Health Centers,” says Hamilton. “COVID-19 really escalated telehealth for some practices within Bassett, but we’ve been doing it for over four years.”


SBHC started their telehealth program with psychiatric visits. They were simpler to implement since the visits don’t require any specialized equipment. These visits were able to greatly reduce the wait time for medication management appointments. Meanwhile, telemedicine between SBHC clinics allowed practitioners at one site to quickly see patients at another site when help was needed more urgently.

Telepulmonology represents SBHC’s first foray into sub-specialties. The volume of demand is far smaller than for psychiatric visits—but the services are also very valuable. “This program does wonders for our patients’ experience and access to care,” says Dr. Monica Brané, chief of pediatrics for the Bassett Healthcare Network. “Primary care pediatricians are well-equipped to treat and control typical asthma and pulmonary conditions. But kids struggling with rarer pulmonary conditions need the insights of a sub-specialist. SBHC’s telepulmonology services make it easier, faster, and more affordable to get these kids the help they need. This is telemedicine at its best.”


This finite group size made telepulmonology an opportunity to work out technical bugs and establish some effective standardized procedures. If this program continues to succeed, SBHC hopes to expand to pediatric gastrointestinal, neurological and endocrinological sub-specialties.


Outward Momentum

At its rollout, telepulmonology became available to all 21 SBHC sites. “During our planning, we estimated that SBHC would have 12 to 15 telepulmonology referrals in a year,” says Hamilton. “From when we started in March of this year, we’ve already had seven. That might represent a backlog that will soon level off, but for now we’re now ahead of schedule! Either way, there’s space in the program for more patients.”


As a result, since its launch the program has expanded to other Bassett pediatric offices in Cooperstown and Oneonta.


“This was hard work,” says Hamilton. “But I think the time was well-spent.”

Bassett Healthcare Network operates 21 school-based health centers across the region. Learn more by calling toll-free at 1-844-ALL-SBHC (255-7242).

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