Aztec schools, hospital start telemedicine program

Joshua Kellogg
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — San Juan Health Partners Family Medicine and the Aztec Municipal School District have initiated a new telemedicine program to provide health care to students while they are on campus.

The eHealthySchools program will allow students at each Aztec school to have a virtual doctor's visit with staff members from the San Juan Health Partners office in Aztec.

San Juan Regional Medical Center spokesman Haroon Ahmad said eHealthySchools is the first telemedicine program in the state to work with a public school district. San Juan Health Partners is a division of the San Juan Regional Medical Center.

"The goal of the program is to help students stay healthy and to stay in school," Dr. Sugar Singleton Marcy said. "It's much cheaper to see a family doctor than go to the emergency room."

The office will be providing nonemergency medical visits for students who display symptoms of having a sore throat, a cold, allergies or similar ailments.

Marcy said the program provides help when school nurses are not sure why a student isn't feeling well and a parent would have to leave work and take the child to the doctor's office or an urgent care office.

Christa Kulidge, director of exceptional programs for Aztec schools, said the program will start in early September, and the district provided parents with registration forms during student registration last week.

"I think this is fabulous," Kulidge said.

A Kubi telepresence robot with an Apple iPad will be installed in the nurse's office of each school. The mechanism can be remotely operated by the physician in the clinic.

Ahmad said the equipment and the installation of a new high-speed Internet connection were paid for by the San Juan Regional Medical Center.

During virtual examinations of students, the school nurse can assist the physician by performing some tasks, including checking a student's ear canal.

Kulidge said school nurses will participate in training on Aug. 24. She said the system is simple to use and compared it to using the telecommunications software Skype.

Parents of students are welcome to attend the virtual examinations, and all information from the visits will be forwarded to a student's general practitioner.

Marcy said the virtual visits will be billed as a normal doctor's visit at a private care office, costing less than a visit to an urgent care facility or a hospital emergency room.

Kulidge said parental permission will be required before an appointment for a virtual examination can be made.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.