SHELBY, N.C., April 9, 2019 – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) has committed $750,000 over three years to expand Atrium Health Levine Children’s school-based virtual clinic to additional schools in Cleveland County. The virtual clinic launched in Shelby, N.C. to improve access to pediatricians who diagnose and develop a treatment plan while the students remain at school. In its first year, this program has reduced early school dismissal due to illness and unnecessary visits to the emergency department for non-emergent health needs, as well as connected more children to a primary care provider.
The virtual clinic – the first of its kind in the area – was developed through a partnership between Atrium Health Levine Children’s Shelby Children’s Clinic, Atrium Health’s Community Health division, Cleveland County Public Health Center and Cleveland County Schools. Since the pilot launched in fall 2017, the virtual clinic has expanded to three additional Cleveland County Schools in 2018: James Love School, Shelby Intermediate School and Township Three Elementary School.
Graham Elementary School was chosen as the pilot school for the clinic as the surrounding areas rank high in poverty, unemployment, lack of insurance and lack of access to primary care and a medical home. With the additional funding, the virtual clinic will be available in additional Cleveland County schools with high percentages of at-risk students.
“The virtual clinic provides families the opportunity to seek medical care for their school-aged children more readily,” said Patricia Grinton, MD, director of Levine Children’s Shelby Children’s Virtual Clinic. “The students are evaluated for healthcare needs while they remain at school and their parents continue their daily activities, such as work. Support from Cleveland County Schools and Blue Cross NC has been, and will continue to be, instrumental to our success and continue to improve the health of our communities.”
Within its first year alone, the virtual clinic has:
· Reduced unnecessary emergency department visits by 55.6 percent for those students seen via a telehealth encounter.
· Reduced early dismissal from school by 33.3 percent in comparison to previous academic year.
· Improved access and establishment of a medical home as 21 percent of children cared for had no primary care provider or established medical home prior to visit.
“It’s of the upmost importance that we address health disparities for children in North Carolina,” said Dr. John Smith, lead medical director for Blue Cross NC. “Levine Children’s virtual clinic ensures the children in the Shelby area have the access to care they need so they can focus on what’s so important at their age -- having fun and doing well in school.”
Utilizing innovative technology, students are evaluated by a pediatrician located remotely at Shelby Children’s Clinic with parental consent. Parents are invited to join the visit via audio, video or attend in-person. Upon completion, the diagnosis and treatment are discussed with the parent and a prescription, if needed, is electronically forwarded to the preferred pharmacy.
The virtual clinic is projected to:
· Increase the number of telehealth visits by 100 per year, per school.
· Continue to reduce unnecessary emergency department visits. Currently, unnecessary emergency department visits cost $38 billion in medical costs each year nationwide.
· Continue to lower early school dismissals due to health concerns.
· Continue to improve access to a primary medical home among affected school children by 30 percent. Medical homes are defined as a model of primary care that is patient-centered, comprehensive, team-based, coordinated, accessible, and focused on quality and safety.
About Atrium Health
Atrium Health, previously Carolinas HealthCare System, one of the nation's leading and most innovative healthcare organizations, provides a full spectrum of healthcare and wellness programs throughout the Southeast region. Its diverse network of care locations includes academic medical centers, hospitals, freestanding emergency departments, physician practices, surgical and rehabilitation centers, home health agencies, nursing homes and behavioral health centers, as well as hospice and palliative care services. Atrium Health works to enhance the overall health and well-being of its communities through high-quality patient care, education and research programs, and numerous collaborative partnerships and initiatives.
About Blue Cross NC
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina improves the health and well-being of our customers and communities by providing innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.89 million members, including approximately 1 million served on behalf of other Blue Plans. Since 1933, we have worked to make North Carolina a better place to live through our support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. We have been recognized as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere Institute every year since 2012. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross online at bluecrossnc.com. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.