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COVID-19 Updates with Hazel Health: The Impact on K-12 Students

ByHLTH Team & Hazel Health|April 21, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our team will be interviewing experts from across the ecosystem to bring the HLTH community the most up to date facts and updates. 

About Josh Golomb: Josh Golomb is CEO of Hazel Health, a healthcare company offering all children access to healthcare through in-school virtual medical clinics. Hazel partners with schools to improve student health and decrease absenteeism by providing students with instant access to a network of doctors for a speedy diagnosis and care plan. Josh is an experienced senior executive, having co-founded new healthcare enterprises and presided over several large organizations, fostering tremendous growth. As former CEO of direct primary care startup Paladina Health (acquired by NEA), he has proven success in developing forward-thinking healthcare organizations while delivering exceptional clinical and financial results.

HLTH Team: How is telemedicine assisting with the COVID-19 crisis?

Josh Golomb: We are seeing a complete transformation in the role of telemedicine. For years there has been a huge gap between the public’s interest in telemedicine which exceeds 60%, and actual utilization, which was typically below 10%. The COVID-19 crisis is demonstrating the value of virtual, most notably by minimizing the strain on the healthcare system by keeping those with mild cases of COVID-19 at home and out of hospitals. This approach is helping physicians identify and treat non-emergency health issues, and instruct patients to stay home when they can, in order to keep clinic and hospital resources available to those who need it most right now. 

HLTH Team: How is the rapid shift toward utilizing telemedicine affecting the quality of digital health platforms?

Josh Golomb: Wider adoption of telemedicine is driving primary care providers to shift toward conducting high quality virtual visits. It also provides an opportunity for everyone in the healthcare community to work together and develop the most robust protocols for care. Digital health technologies that were once faced with skepticism around their effectiveness are quickly becoming strong platforms with rigorous standards. 

At Hazel, we have been recruiting experienced family practices and pediatricians to deliver care, many of whom were initially weary of telemedicine. From the beginning, we’ve approached care with the mindset that we wanted to develop the protocols and practices to have the most rigorous pediatric clinical practice. We are excited to share what we have learned with the hard working physicians that are now practicing this new form of care for the first time.  

HLTH Team: How are families coping with school closures?

Josh Golomb: School closures have had a monumental impact on all families as schools play a central role in communities well beyond education. Many working parents rely on schools for child care and do not have jobs that allow them to work remotely. Families also rely on schools to feed their children - The National School Lunch Program provides free meals to more than 30 million children each year. Schools are also often a crucial health resource. At Hazel, 50% of the families we work with tell us they do not have a primary care physician. These families often rely on a school nurse as their primary source of healthcare. With schools closed, many families are left without options other than the Emergency Room. For these families, school closures threaten a key lifeline of support.  

Thankfully, we are seeing incredible leadership from our school partners working around the clock to ensure families receive vital services. School Districts are finding creative ways to get families the services they need - from food and supplies to wifi access and computers to enable families to connect from home. Many school nurses are still supporting families remotely, helping to ensure that their students can still get treatment for pink eye, a key medication refill, or other non-COVID-19 treatments that families still need for their kids. We are doing our part to introduce telemedicine as a healthcare resource in our communities. 

Last week, one of our school nurse partners reached out to help with a family in need remotely. Their child had asthmatic symptoms, but had no primary care provider. The family was planning to head to the Emergency Room, which would put them at risk for COVID-19 transmission. We were able to connect our provider to the student and get them the care they needed. We were proud of our ability to support the family, but know that we were only able to play this role because of the deep trust that school had built with the family.  

HLTH Team: How is Hazel supporting families during this time?

Josh Golomb: Hazel works closely with school districts and local health authorities to ensure that families have easy access to the most up-to-date information available on COVID-19. We’re working with our school partners, families, and legislatures to offer Hazel’s services at the designated “resource outposts” they’ve made available to families at this time. 

Hazel is also now allowing students and families to access medical advice and treatment by Hazel doctors from home. Students in Hazel’s partner districts are able to meet virtually with doctors, who can provide medical expertise, prescriptions, and clarification on how to stay safe. As schools close and students are forced to stay home, Hazel is enhancing our platform and responding to the call to serve families in need. We also believe that an integrated platform that supports children across school and home will be a huge support to families.  

We’re proud to be doing our part to help the underserved communities being hit hardest by COVID-19, and helping to mitigate the strain on the healthcare system by keeping families out of the hospital when possible and providing them with the care they need. 

HLTH Team: What are your thoughts on some state governments looking to open school back up in May? Do you think that is too soon? What are the benefits/risks? 

Josh Golomb: Each state has different needs, and strategies to contain need to be made on local levels. Each state is taking the necessary precautions to do what they need, and schools have been amazing community leaders throughout these challenging times.

HLTH Team: Have you noticed an increased need for mental health support for K-12 students during this time? Are there enough resources out there in regards to mental health for this age group? 

Josh Golomb: Anxiety and depression have been on the rise for K-12 students since the 1950s. Now more than ever, students need mental health support as they are growing up in an uncertain time. With 11% of children diagnosed with depression by the time they are 18, schools have the ability to offer instrument support as this is where students are spending the majority of their time. We’re currently working on a mental health support offering at Hazel so that we can provide the resources school leaders need to support K-12 mental health. Our hope is that as health care evolves with telemedicine, these services can be more widely implemented for the benefit of schools and children everywhere. 

HLTH Team: What advice would you give to parents with children with special health needs who may not be able to access the same level of care right now and where telehealth may not be enough? 

Josh Golomb: Telehealth has proven to be a leading solution for equitable, quality care, but we recognize it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The needs of every family are different, so there will be instances where families need to seek differing or more substantial levels of care. Our recommendation is to seek local community resources in order to access the best resources for a given situation. Schools are a great place to start, as district leaders have their finger on the pulse of what is available in each community.