Darlington County students to complete doctor visits via video chat

DARLINGTON, SC (WBTW) - The Darlington County School Board approved a pilot program, Monday, that will let students speak to a doctor during school hours through digital technology.

The program can help students who do not have a primary care doctor.

Earlier this year, South Florence High School started the Telehealth program, available through a partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina. The school's principal says the program is going well, and this month, school officials hope to expand the program to include mental health treatment.

The same program will now be offered to Darlington County students.

Through the online video chat tool, similar to Skype, students can complete a doctor's visit without even leaving the school. Parent Dvache Sellers recently moved to Darlington and believes the program sounds promising, but wants some more information before she signs her child up to take part.

"If something is wrong with their body, how will they know if the doctor can't physically touch them to see what's really wrong?" questions Sellers.

Chuck Miller is the supervisor of school nurses, social workers and district attendants for the school district. He's been with the Darlington County school district for 20 years. He says students without a primary care doctor or transportation will benefit most from the pilot program.

"A lot of times our nurses are the front line of healthcare, not just in schools, but in the community. A lot of times it's the only medical profession these students see," says Miller.

According to the 2015 census, there are 15,790 people under 18 in Darlington County who do not have health insurance.

The next step is to decide what schools will have the program, then nurses in the district will receive training on how to use the equipment.

"This will help broaden the scope of what our school nurses are able to do for our students," says Miller. "It also helps the parents. Instead of leaving work. Signing a student out and going to doctors visit for something that may be an external problem. That a doctor could evaluate remotely to save parents a trip to the school, to the doctor, save them work time. It's really a win-win for the students and their parents."

The district plans to start the program at up to five elementary schools in Hartsville, Lamar and possibly Darlington. The goal is to have the pilot program up and running by spring of 2018.

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