Getting healthcare to all children across the U.S. is a tall order — particularly when 20 million children still don’t have access to sufficient care — but one company is serving up a solution, with a little help from technology.
Hazel Health CEO Josh Golomb. Photo courtesy of Hazel Health.
Hazel Health, a San Francisco-based healthcare company, aims to expand care access to every child in the country, regardless of insurance, immigration status or family income. The company is pursuing this goal by bringing telehealth into schools, connecting children to doctors at no cost to their families. It already serves more than 10,000 students in 11 school districts and has a track record of more than 8,000 telehealth visits.
Hazel Health CEO Josh Golomb spoke with HealthTech to discuss how technology has offered a way into improving access to care for schoolchildren across the country.
HEALTHTECH: How does bringing telemedicine to schools help to improve care?
GOLOMB: With poor health linked to chronic absenteeism, we see investing in healthcare as a way to both improve student health and impact student performance in school and beyond. Children can only succeed if they are healthy and able to attend school regularly. With approximately 21 percent of children in the United States living in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, many have inadequate health insurance or limited access to healthcare, often relying on expensive emergency room visits that cost over $1,100 on average.
Hazel Health partners with school nurses to offer virtual medical clinics in the school setting. Nurses enable students to receive immediate care by connecting with our network of doctors via video call from the nurse’s office.
Further, 85 percent of students return to class after a visit with Hazel, which means more time spent learning in the classroom. This is also a huge relief for parents, who might otherwise have to leave work and lose income. With this model, we can leverage technology to provide great care at a far lower cost than the alternative of an urgent care or emergency room visit.
HEALTHTECH: What's needed, in terms of coordination, to implement telemedicine in schools?
GOLOMB: Our role is to find a way to fill in the access gaps that may exist.
We track all of our encounters with students and their families over time via an electronic health record system, and our providers can use our technology to share this information with the students’ other providers or generate a referral to a new provider if needed. We also partner closely with many Federally Qualified Health Centers and are looking to launch formal partnerships with health plans and health systems in the coming months.
We have seen many examples where connecting the school nurse, Hazel doctor and a local primary care provider has enabled us to develop a more robust care plan for a child that had been chronically absent, without a clear diagnosis or care plan.
HEALTHTECH: What is necessary from a technology perspective to implement this program?
GOLOMB: Every school receives an iPad to connect with Hazel providers, as well as a cart of supplies, including 15 over-the-counter medications that school nurses can administer when they have an order from Hazel. The program also collaborates with schools to help manage administrative workflow by streamlining the way information is shared with parents or other care providers, as necessary.
Hazel has also built a flexible platform that is adaptable to school districts’ existing EHR and school record keeping systems. The system includes data analytics tools, tying together school-related identifiers and student health interventions that can help to paint a picture of potentially high-risk students.
HEALTHTECH: What has the benefit been so far?
GOLOMB: We have seen a 40 percent reduction in health-related absenteeism in our partner schools and know that has an impact on academic performance.
By way of example: We recently had a fifth-grade student who was frequently missing school. After her virtual consultation with a provider, we learned that she had a pre-existing asthma diagnosis, but was no longer using her inhaler because she had not gone to a doctor for more than two years. Our virtual care services helped the student and her family get an appointment to see her doctor again for a new inhaler. Her provider also ensured the inhaler was available for her at school and that she was trained to use it. As a result, the student’s attendance improved, her parents felt reassured, and the school nurse could help administer the care the student needed.