Telehealth and classroom tech converge in Northwest Florida
The start of the school year can be daunting under any circumstances. But for students in Northwest Florida, this fall marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael, one of the most damaging hurricanes on record and the first Category 5 to reach the U.S. mainland since 1992.
For many in this corner of the state, memories of the Michael are still fresh, as more than $25 billion in damage was caused by the storm and the path to recovery is only just beginning. (The state is also currently bracing for the impact of Hurricane Dorian, though thankfully this storm is forecasted to be a much lesser incident) As a result, many students will be kicking off the school year still feeling the emotional baggage that comes with surviving a major natural disaster.
To help kids grapple with the still-lingering trauma of Hurricane Michael, state officials have moved forward with a campaign, spearheaded by Florida’s first lady, Casey DeSantis, to install telehealth portals at 63 schools in the Panhandle. The portals will connect students with mental help professionals who can assess, diagnose and even provide treatment for children who might otherwise fall behind in their studies because of a lack of access to adequate health resources.
“I was proud to be in Northwest Florida this morning to announce the installation of these portals that will bring the necessary mental health services that our students need and deserve,” DeSantis said a press conference announcing the plan’s details in early August. “While this is an innovative, 21st century approach and a promising start to tackling the mental health crisis, we understand that this is just one piece of the puzzle. We want to make sure that people realize that hope is on the horizon and at the end of the day this community will be made whole.”
This is just one example showing how connected technologies are having a meaningful impact in new and unexpected areas of our day-to-day lives. In treating mental health issues, specifically, telehealth has proven to be a boon for the ailing, as qualified professionals are often hard to come by in rural or remote areas, or – as is the case in Northwest Florida – the demand for treatment exceeds the resources available.
This also represents the convergence of digital transformation both in the field of healthcare and in the classroom. As we’ve discussed in the past, academia has been on the cutting edge of embracing new technologies to better serve students, improve operations and get faculty up to speed. Now, with students and teachers having greater access to trained mental health professionals, educators can refocus their efforts on making sure catastrophes like Michael don’t derail a student’s learning trajectory, even if they’re still recovering in other ways.
Making this technology come to life requires a robust and performant network that connects an array of stakeholders: Each school site supporting the individual telehealth portals, parents and educators who may want to join a session remotely, the practitioners on the other end of the connection, and the various medical providers and state agencies ensuring the system runs smoothly.
This requires clear network visibility on the part of the IT teams managing the 63 portals and all associated third parties on the network level, so that an already difficult situations – giving developing minds the care and attention they need – aren’t interrupted by bad connectivity.