csba at issue

By Thomas Shaffer

How today’s healthcare model for youth is changing


ince COVID-19 (and even before), more patients have been turning to hybrid healthcare to meet their needs. Hybrid healthcare combines telehealth’s remote benefits with in-person care’s hands-on aspects. It’s the way of the future — and facilities of all kinds, including school campuses, are jumping on the bandwagon.

From the 1970s to the 2010s, American healthcare models changed quite a bit but still operated on a largely facility-centric mentality. “Traditional” care required patients to travel to the doctor and take time out of their days to seek help — often at a high price.

As a society, we have moved toward something different, largely thanks to the safety parameters established during COVID-19. With an increased need for flexibility, hybrid services shot to center stage — and have stayed there. This is especially true when considering hybrid health and wellness services for children.

Here’s how healthcare for children is changing dramatically — and what we can expect from the future of hybrid healthcare in schools.

Innovative solutions to improve accessibility
Pediatric care is evolving. The theme at the forefront of this change is providing more accessibility options for children and parents because receiving quality healthcare shouldn’t be a challenge. Modern caregivers are increasingly busy as they deal with demanding careers, household responsibilities and taking their children to school and extracurriculars.

To add to the stress, a study by the American Psychological Association found that 39 percent of parents in the workforce are having difficulty finding quality child care to help shoulder the load. So, when a kid shows signs of any mental or physical ailment, a doctor’s visit becomes just another bump in an already consuming schedule.

Fortunately, telehealth is causing a big shift in healthcare. It’s about meeting students and their families where they are, rather than forcing them to seek care at a facility and adjust their entire routine. Telehealth visits make it so parents can ensure their children get the healthcare they need — eliminating geographic barriers, allowing for flexible scheduling, offering essential mental health services and providing crucial health education.

Mother holding her child checking his temperature
Telehealth visits make it so parents can ensure their children get the healthcare they need
Low or no-cost services for all
Healthcare in America is historically expensive. Unfortunately, when it comes to youth healthcare, high costs are a burden to many parents looking for options to keep their children mentally and physically healthy. Today’s healthcare model is placing a growing emphasis on making sure services are cost-effective, including by providing financial support to youth and their families.

Telehealth is leading the movement toward a more affordable healthcare model by helping parents eliminate in-care visit costs and travel expenses. Additionally, it’s been found that in-person care is drastically more expensive than telehealth visits — around four times as costly.

While hybrid healthcare solutions offer less expensive options to ensure children’s health and wellness, this doesn’t mean sacrificing quality of care in the name of affordability. Telehealth and hybrid care models provide an even higher quality of care by allowing patients easier access to providers.

Prioritizing regular wellness visits
When it comes to children’s health and wellness, it’s important to focus on providing regular, comprehensive visits — not just “as-needed” attention. School-age children are at a crucial time in their development. Regular check-ups are essential. Research has found that routine wellness visits significantly reduce hospitalizations and emergency visits for young people, which greatly increases their safety.

These wellness visits include routine vision and hearing screenings, taking care of potential issues before they become more severe. Growth, development and vitals checks ensure that children are developing at a healthy rate. Additionally, wellness visits can include mental health screenings, scoliosis checks and immunization updates. Being on top of routine check-ups is a necessary, proactive approach. It lays the foundation for healthy adulthood by helping detect and prevent potential health issues.

Unfortunately, as important as regular exams are, many children aren’t getting them when they should as parents can struggle to find the time and resources to incorporate them into their already busy routines. That’s another reason many parents are turning to hybrid healthcare. Telehealth provides a seamless option for frequent exams by reducing barriers like costs and scheduling conflicts. Remote, as-needed access to healthcare professionals makes the most sense for working parents.

Incorporating full-body wellness into schools
Healthcare for youth needs to start where the youth are — in schools. Not all children have easy access to health services. They may lack the necessary transportation or have busy parents who struggle to take time off work for appointments.

No child should miss out on a well-cared-for and healthy adolescence for reasons out of their control. The best solution is to provide top-notch healthcare solutions like hybrid school clinics. These improve accessibility, have low- to no-cost premiums, and allow for convenient routine check-ups. Moreover, the best hybrid healthcare models ensure that children are not only receiving physical support, but mental health check-ups as well.

As the demand for hybrid solutions continues to grow, it isn’t a shift school leaders can ignore, for the sake of our society as a whole, but particularly for the next generation.

Thomas Shaffer is president at Campus Clinic, an organization that works with school districts to build integrated, program-driven, on-campus healthcare solutions. Questions? Contact GetHealthy@campusclinic.org.