Sevier County schools use telemedicine to treat kids, teachers

ALCOA, Tenn. (WATE) - An East Tennessee school system is making it possible to speak with a doctor using Skype or FaceTime instead of seeing the doctor in person or trying to scroll online to diagnose symptoms. With waiting rooms filled with sick people, it may be the best option for families during one of the hardest hitting flu seasons in years.

Cherokee Health Systems has used telemedicine inside the Sevier County school system for 10 years. Kids, teachers and staff can schedule an appointment and speak with a physician who may be at a clinic outside the county.

"We do sore throats, fever, rashes, ear pain," said nurse practitioner Kristen King.

King was at the Alcoa clinic on Thursday and Donna Casey, a nurse at a school in Sevier County, was her virtual patient.

"I try to do things like Emergen-C and vitamins and I was hoping to not have it. It kind of hit me over the last day or two and I thought, 'Here we go,'" said Casey.

King says virtual doctor visits cut down on kids exposing one another. 

"If the kid comes in, they've been sick for one day with a sore throat, they test positive for strep, we send them home with a school note, send their antibiotics in and 24 to 48 hours later they can come back."

Even though physicians are diagnosing through the screen, they can see and hear.

"My stethoscope looks different too because I just put on headphones and the nurse on the other end has the part where you listen to their heart and lungs with," said King.

Part of telemedicine includes testing for strep and the flu. While Casey doesn't have the flu, she's happy she had a virtual doctor's visit so she can pick up medicine on the way home.

"I'm hoping that it doesn't hit me full-fledged," she said.

Both Tennova Healthcare and Summit Medical Group say telemedicine services aren't available right now, though they're always looking at new technology options for patients.

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