Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health was considering expanding capacity at a busy hospital emergency department in Cleveland County, N.C., when its leaders saw clinical and census data showing children from a local school were using the ED to treat their asthma symptoms and low-acuity illnesses. 

After contacting the school, Atrium Health learned that the school would send children experiencing extreme asthma symptoms or low-acuity illnesses to the ED at least every five days because its nurse didn’t have permission to administer necessary preventative medications, said Patricia Grinton, M.D., director of Atrium Health Levine Children’s school-based virtual clinic. 

To remedy this, Atrium Health installed a school-based virtual clinic, which remotely connects to a pediatrician at the pediatrician’s office. Parents, who are often working or lack transportation to visit a doctor with their child, can join the consultation remotely or in-person. The doctor can evaluate and develop a treatment plan for the child in real-time and send an electronic prescription, if needed, to the preferred pharmacy. If medication is prescribed, a medication authorization form — which permits school nurses to administer medication — then “goes home in a book bag,” Grinton said. “So, the parents just sign consent. And then boom, it's right back [at the school].”

By looking closely at their data, Atrium Health was ultimately able to keep children healthy and in school, reduce unnecessary ED visits and connect students to an established medical home.

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