Keeping asthma in check is the job of TeleCoach, a two-way audio-video monitor and computer in the school nurse's office at Hunt-Mapp Middle School in Portsmouth, Va. The stylishly coifed machine is equipped with a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff and a peak flow meter (to measure lung function). Above, Chantel Miles, 13, has her weekly visit with a nurse who is located 12 miles away, but whose face appears on the machine's monitor.
"She can see the child, [and] the child can see her. She can listen to breathing sounds, listen to their heart . . . [and] read their peak flow meters," said Rhonda Chetney, director of clinical operations for Sentara Home Care Services, a regional health care provider that funds the TeleCoach program. The remote coach can also offer advice.
Forty students have participated in the program since it began in 2002. Sentara studied 19 of them during the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 school years and found that missed school days attributed to asthma flare-ups had decreased by 61 percent. Participants also had a 70 percent reduction in asthma-related emergency room visits and an 86 percent reduction in asthma-related hospital admissions.
-- January W. Payne