Thinking about starting a school-based telehealth (SBTH) program? Program development requires time, energy, and an investment of resources. An important first step in program development is conducting a needs and readiness assessment. These two assessments provide many benefits, including
- Laying the foundation for program development
- Defining clear objectives and shared expectations among stakeholders
- Identifying potential problems and addressing them early
- Engaging key stakeholders and gaining their support
- Improving coordination of services and rational allocation of resources
- Setting expectations for evaluating program effectiveness
- Providing critical information for developing your marketing and business plans
Start the planning process well in advance of the school year end if your goal is to create and launch a program at the start of the next school year.
Why do you want to incorporate telehealth into your school-based health care program? A needs assessment helps you understand and articulate the problem(s) you are trying to solve. Some questions to ask include:
- What are the unmet health needs of our:
- students (remember that health needs can be clinical and/or educational)?
- school staff (remember that teacher/counselor education and training is often just as important as providing direct care to students)?
- Which of these needs can telehealth address? What provider-related needs might telehealth meet?
- What is your current capacity to provide health care services and education? What is the current demand for these services? Whenever possible, use data to inform your understanding!
- Are there some needs that take priority over others? Which ones and why?
If you already have a list of needs and see that telehealth fits, determine if your school, school-based health center (SBHC), and health center are ready for telehealth. Organizational readiness is a way to assess whether your school, SBHC, and health center are willing and able to shift from the way it is currently doing business to a new telehealth way. Some questions to ask include:
- Does my school, SBHC, and health center support innovation and the use of technology?
- Are there any resources available to plan or implement this project?
- Is there any staff interested in assisting with this project? Do I have anyone I might consider a champion for this project?
- Do I have buy-in and support from the school board, school superintendent, or anyone else who would have authority over the project?
- Would students and their families have any opposition to this project?
- Does my school have the technology and connectivity bandwidth needed to sustain an SBTH program?
- Is there any funding available for this project (e.g., current budget, grants, etc.)?