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Medical Rounds

The Doctor Is … On

Thanks to a new telemedicine initiative by Howard Country General Hospital, elementary school students are getting appointments with Johns Hopkins physicians without ever leaving the nurse’s office.

The program is aimed at schools with high numbers of students who don’t have health insurance or a primary care provider.

When students visit the school nurse for a headache, sore throat, earache, rash or cough, they get their vitals taken and then connect with a doctor using secure computer software. After the physician is on the screen, the nurse can employ one of several Bluetooth exam tools, like a high-definition stethoscope or otoscope, as part of the doctor’s exam.

Parents are invited to attend the appointments through a call and hear about their child’s diagnosis or prescription, or ask questions.

“We try to treat the child’s medical issue at the time of the visit and provide a primary care physician in the community for follow-up,” says David Monroe, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at Howard County General, a member hospital of Johns Hopkins Medicine. So far, no students have had to leave school to see a doctor.

In a related effort, Johns Hopkins Hospital psychiatrist Deirdre Johnston is also using telemedicine to provide care to patients who otherwise may not receive it. As part of a program to address the mental health needs of older adults in Baltimore City, a nurse practitioner brings an iPad with a secure connection to patients’ homes. The patients use the tablet to see Johnston for their evaluations or checkups.

“It’s ideal because it expands what we can do,” says Johnston. “There is a huge opportunity in telemedicine for populations that find it hard to get to the doctor.”