Telehealth for Residential Special Needs Schools

Since 2000, the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf (ENCSD) and the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University have used a telemedicine link that allows special needs students to receive daily consults and primary care from caregivers at the Brody School. Normally, students who receive care would have to miss substantial classroom time and then return home. With the telemedicine link, students stay at school and spend more time in class.

Another problem arranging exams with special needs students is the lack of on-site interpreters in many healthcare facilities. The telemedicine system eliminates the difficulty of scheduling interpreters at the Brody School because it connects on-site interpreters at ENCSD with physicians at Brody. The system uses nurse-trained interpreters who act as nurses and manage the equipment while facilitating communication between students and physicians.

Since its inception in 2000, the telemedicine link has greatly impacted health care services for ENCSD students. Because of the availability of daily consults, students are seen at earlier stages of their illness and receive faster primary and specialty care. Students also learn about health by seeing images through the telemedicine link. Additionally, students embrace the telemedicine system, reporting they prefer to see a physician through a telemedicine exam rather than an in-person exam.

Due to the successes of this application, two other residential special needs schools will add telemedicine links to ECU – the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh and the North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton.