The Telehealth ROCKS (Rural Outreach for Children of Kansas) grant, now in its second year, seeks to improve treatment and assessment of children with developmental and behavioral health challenges in rural Southeastern Kansas. In September 2016, the project started accepting referrals. The schools or providers identify parents who are interested in services via telehealth and the parents are connected with the University of Kansas Center for Telehealth and Telemedicine (KUCTT) for assistance with the intake process and then linked with services.
“Our goal is to help get services to children sooner through telemedicine,” said Project Coordinator Shawna Wright in a recent interview with the Parsons Sun. “If a referral is made to a specialist, sometimes it can be six, nine, 12 months before they can be evaluated in the city. We’re hoping through telemedicine we can cut that time down. It is our hope with this program parents can acquire an assessment and diagnosis much sooner.”
Wright also revealed implementation strategies they have used to build and sustain the program.
Build on existing connections
Instead of spending months finding new contacts, Wright decided to first work with established contacts and scale up from there.
“I live and work in Chanute, Kansas, and I’m familiar with this area and familiar with Allen County, so we’ve had more of a response and a buildup there. So my approach to the grant has been get rolling with the providers we know and that we have,” said Wright, adding that she plans to expand to Parsons and Coffeyville this spring.
Be creative on finding space
One implementation challenge for the project has been finding dedicated telehealth space in facilities. Many rural clinics and hospitals are already maxed-out on space, so although a provider may be interested in serving as a telehealth site for the program, they don’t have the space for a dedicated telehealth room. Wright has turned to other solutions to help remedy this situation, including locating space in a local community college and an elementary school. They have also coordinated with a Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center which has agreed to dedicate one day per week to serving as a site and they are also in talks with the Allen County Health Department to provide space.
In addition to traditional diagnostic and treatment services, the grant has offered a diverse array of services, including parent/child interaction therapy and toileting clinics. The grant has also helped fund Project ECHO, the telementoring program for primary care providers. These ECHOs covered childhood epilepsy and psychopharmacology and a new ECHO is planned for childhood asthma.
Telehealth ROCKS was recently awarded an extension grant for expanding telehealth services to schools. They will continue to expand services over the remaining two years of the grant.