Elizabeth B. Guerard
A new software solution promises to help chronically overburdened school nurses get a handle on their caseloads, track reimbursable student health services, and even issue bills automatically to Medicaid.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Center for Pediatric Research have introduced a web-based computer software system, called Welligent, that helps school nurses manage their caseloads and streamline their work process.
“The volume of cases many school nurses are trying to take care of is huge,” said John Pestian, director of health informatics research at the Center for Pediatric Research. “Some are seeing up to 70 or 80 kids a day. Even the most well-run doctor’s office is probably only seeing 30 or 40 a day.”
Welligent is a modular software suite that promises to streamline the various tasks involved in managing a school’s health program. School nurses, administrators, and therapists can choose to access the Clinic, Billing, Special Education, Administration, or Report modules when they use the product to track and receive information about their students’ health.
The Clinic Module allows users to maintain a log of visits to the school clinic. It documents services, provides nurses with quick access to students’ health records, tracks individual health plans and immunizations, tracks and schedules medications, and allows for mass health screenings.
The Special Education Module helps nurses regulate plans of care, such as speech therapy or physical therapy, and tracks the progress of students on short- and long-term therapy programs. It also allows for documentation of private and group therapy sessions.
The Billing Module electronically submits bills for low-income students or students with disabilities to Medicaid. This reportedly shortens the time it takes for schools to be reimbursed for care. Welligent billing experts, according to developers of the software, also help users by evaluating documentation to ensure Medicaid compliance, providing feedback and training to those submitting requests for payment, and helping to ensure billing accuracy.
Welligent’s Administration Module gives school nurses and administrators access to the software at all levels and lets users create reports and develop standard operating procedures.
Finally, the Report Module allows school officials to keep track of health conditions and trends within their schools, across districts, or statewide, through charts and records. Using the Report Module, officials can gain a better understanding of health and educational issues, such as asthma and attention deficit disorder. Administrators also can track when and where nurses are most needed in a school system.
Sample screens from all five modules can be found on Welligent’s web site (see “Links” below).
The producers of Welligent also promise to provide training to users, both on-site and through eMail and phone support. School districts are encouraged to select a point of contact to receive the most extensive hands-on training with the software.
The software is the result of almost five years of development and research by VDH and other health organizations, developers said.
VDH, in concert with several Virginia universities, gathered information about the capabilities that school nurses and administrators thought a school health software program should possess. A School Health Information System Task Force was created in 1996 to determine the feasibility of establishing a school health information system in Virginia. Development and testing began shortly thereafter.
In 1997, VDH was joined by the Center for Pediatric Research (a joint program of Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters and the Eastern Virginia Medical School), and together they finished the web-based system.
Jeanne Bowers, marketing director at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, said, “This is the only web-based school health software out there. If kids move from school to school, their records can move with them.”
The makers of Welligent installed the software as part of a pilot program in Virginia’s Allegheny Highlands and Covington City school districts at the end of the last school year. Nursing staff are looking forward to using the program in the current school year, according to Leslie Downer, nurse coordinator for the two districts.
“Welligent has been helpful so far, because now we don’t have to go to different places for all the information we need,” Downer said. “It’s also a time-saver for documenting mass screenings.” The Record Module is also a benefit to nurses, Downer said. “I’m hoping this program will be able to show the correlation between health status and academic success.”
Welligent can be installed through a school’s own secure internet web site or may be installed on a school intranet or network, making it accessible to all those with access inside a particular school or across an entire district.
Welligent’s makers said they designed the product with accessibility in mind and it includes graphical user interfaces and point-and-click functionality. To use the software, schools must have a Power Macintosh or Pentium 200 computer, an internet browser equal to or higher than Netscape 4.0 or Internet Explorer 3.02, and a network connection or 56K dedicated modem line, in addition to some basic peripheral hardware.
Bowers said the pricing for Welligent depends on whether the client prefers to buy the software and use its own server or make use of Welligent’s server, and how many students and school officials are using that particular package. However, she added, “We are price-competitive with other school health products.”
If a school or school district opts to use the Billing Module, Welligent keeps 15 percent of the actual recoverable reimbursements from Medicaid. For more information, call the toll-free number (877) 546-7516 or visit the web site.
Center for Pediatric Research