Students at rural Kentucky schools will be able to receive routine medical care via computer this fall thanks to a three-year, $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Rural Health Policy.

“This is a painless way to go to the doctor. It’s less intimidating, we think,” said Lewis County High School nurse Kathy Collier.

The grant enables rural schools to purchase computer equipment, cameras, and high-tech medical devices costing about $22,000. It will cost the schools another $665 per month to keep them hooked up to local medical clinics or regional hubs such as the University of Kentucky’s Chandler Medical Center.

School nurses will do the actual exams, and the pictures and readings will be transmitted electronically by computer to doctors across town or hundreds of miles away. Cameras on some of the instruments and atop a computer monitor capture the images.

Lewis County students tested the equipment in May. They had their ears examined with a camera-equipped otoscope and their hearts checked with a high-tech stethoscope that transmitted the sounds by phone line to a doctor at Lewis County Primary Care Center.

“I like this,” one student said. “It’s really neat, it’s convenient, and you don’t have to wait” in a waiting room.

State officials said they think most rural schools across the country will have telemedicine programs eventually.