Mountain Middle School and Pediatric Partners of the Southwest have partnered to open a new student-based health center in August.
A Pediatric Partners of the Southwest physician will be present at the middle school five days a week, for half a day each day. A full-time school nurse will also be at the center, as well as a rotation of different specialists, a nutritionist and behavioral health provider.
Dr. Cecile Fraley, a pediatrician and CEO of Pediatric Partners, said the firm’s successful tele-health linkage with Silverton schools that it started in February was the inspiration for its partnership with Mountain Middle School.
Virtual medicine allows parents and children in Silverton to see PPSW pediatricians in Durango without leaving town.
Tele-health capabilities opens a world of possibilities, Fraley said. Pediatricians can examine children and write prescriptions from their office almost 50 miles away.
Like the linkage with Silverton, when a PPSW physician is not present at Mountain Middle School, they can virtually assess a student’s ailment. Similarly, parents who are not present in person can still attend their child’s appointment.
“We have a HIPAA-compliant system like Skype, and we can be at the office or at the school with the kids. If the parent can’t get there because of work or some other reason, we can link them and pull them into the visit. They can be present virtually,” Fraley said.
If there are openings available, children outside of the school can also schedule appointments with the onsite physician.
“I think it is fantastic to provide so much more for our students and other kids in this neighborhood,” said Head of School Shane Voss. “This is more or less a satellite office. We have a lot more resources now to meet the health needs of our students.”
The center will treat any student, regardless of their primary-care provider.
“These kids don’t have to be our patients. If a child goes to another physician but is a student and wants to see us, we will share that information with their primary-care provider,” Fraley said.
She said the center is like any other doctor’s office and will keep insurance information on file. It is an alternative option for families who want their children to see a physician but do not want them to miss school.
The care provided will be similar to what is offered at Pediatric Partners’ Horse Gulch office, including strep throat and influenza testing, and checking blood pressure, oxygen, blood sugar and hemoglobin levels.
The only difference is that routine checkups and most vaccinations will not be offered at the Mountain Middle School health center, Fraley said.
“We are excited about being in the middle school setting, partly because there is a lot of social dynamics that go on. I think having pediatricians there along with behavioral health providers is a gift with that age group, as there are evolving dynamics,” Fraley said.