Assessing Needs and Readiness

Thinking about starting a school-based telehealth (SBTH) program? Program development requires time, energy, and an investment of resources.  An important first step in program development is conducting a needs and readiness assessment. These two assessments provide many benefits, including 

  • Laying the foundation for program development
  • Defining clear objectives and shared expectations among stakeholders
  • Identifying potential problems and addressing them early
  • Engaging key stakeholders and gaining their support
  • Improving coordination of services and rational allocation of resources
  • Setting expectations for evaluating program effectiveness
  • Providing critical information for developing your marketing and business plans

Start the planning process well in advance of the school year end if your goal is to create and launch a program at the start of the next school year.

Key Considerations

Why do you want to incorporate telehealth into your school-based health care program? A needs assessment helps you understand and articulate the problem(s) you are trying to solve. Some questions to ask include: 

  • What are the unmet health needs of our: 
    • students (remember that health needs can be clinical and/or educational)?
    • school staff (remember that teacher/counselor education and training is often just as important as providing direct care to students)? 
  • Which of these needs can telehealth address?  What provider-related needs might telehealth meet?   
  • What is your current capacity to provide health care services and education? What is the current demand for these services? Whenever possible, use data to inform your understanding! 
  • Are there some needs that take priority over others? Which ones and why?

If you already have a list of needs and see that telehealth fits, determine if your school, school-based health center (SBHC), and health center are ready for telehealth. Organizational readiness is a way to assess whether your school, SBHC, and health center are willing and able to shift from the way it is currently doing business to a new telehealth way. Some questions to ask include: 

  • Does my school, SBHC, and health center support innovation and the use of technology? 
  • Are there any resources available to plan or implement this project? 
  • Is there any staff interested in assisting with this project? Do I have anyone I might consider a champion for this project? 
  • Do I have buy-in and support from the school board, school superintendent, or anyone else who would have authority over the project?   
  • Would students and their families have any opposition to this project? 
  • Does my school have the technology and connectivity bandwidth needed to sustain an SBTH program? 
  • Is there any funding available for this project (e.g., current budget, grants, etc.)? 

Examples from the Field