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Home Publications Students’ Use of School-Based Telemedicine Services and Rates of Returning to Class After These Services in a Small Elementary School District

Students’ Use of School-Based Telemedicine Services and Rates of Returning to Class After These Services in a Small Elementary School District

by Arena Lam, BethAnn Berliner and Vanessa Barrat

Even before COVID-19, school districts wanted to understand if school-based telemedicine services met student health needs during the school day and helped keep students in school all day, every day. Specifically, districts were interested in knowing if telemedicine enabled students with a school-day health issue to return to class instead of being sent home, preventing the loss of instruction. This study examined students' use of school-based telemedicine in all five of the schools in urban Robla Elementary School District in California during the first two years of implementation (2017/18 and 2018/19). The study also examined how students' use of services varied by grade level and by race/ethnicity. Districtwide, 26 percent of students used telemedicine services at least once over the two years, with 9 percent of students using telemedicine multiple times. The reasons students used telemedicine services varied, with the most frequent reasons being for noncommunicable health conditions(44 percent) and communicable illnesses(19 percent). Nearly all telemedicine visits (94 percent) resulted in students returning to class. This resulted in these students receiving, on average, approximately 3 hours of instruction remaining in that school day. Students in lower and upper elementary grades did not differ in their use of telemedicine services, though there were some differences by student race/ethnicity. Black students had the highest use of telemedicine and Asian students had the lowest use. This suggests that needs, awareness, level of comfort, or rate of parent/guardian consent for receiving school-based telemedicine services may vary across student groups. Compared to visits made by students of other race/ethnicity groups, a higher percentage of the telemedicine visits by Hispanic students were for preventative/wellness reasons. Telemedicine services may hold promise to help students stay healthy and in school, and is adaptable for students at home during the pandemic and when school buildings reopen. Results indicate that telemedicine can treat students during the school day, enabling them to attend their classes for the remainder of instruction that day.

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Publication Information

West | Publication Type: Descriptive Study | Publication
Date: February 2021

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