FORT SMITH — Theresa Piechocki, Christ the King School’s technology teacher, discovered a smart thermometer and app last spring that could be used to keep the school’s student body healthier and bolster attendance.
She talked about her discovery to Katie Kratzberg, development director, who applied to Kinsa, manufacturer of the first FDA-cleared smartphone thermometer, to become part of its FLUency program.
“We are one of 500 schools in the country to receive Bluetooth-connected smart thermometers for every student and staff member who participates,” Kratzberg said. “Since we began the program in early October, 171 families have signed up.”
Christ the King is the only Catholic school in Arkansas to participate.
Each participating school has its own anonymous online group where families can report their children’s illnesses and receive information by grade level. Principal Myndi Keyton and school nurse Sonya Hiatt can check posted information for the entire 285-student body.
“The app follows all the HIPAA guidelines,” Keyton said, “so parents can feel confident about privacy. They tell me it helps them in the morning when their children complain about things like sore throats. If parents look at the app and see that other children in that grade have strep, they choose to take their child to the doctor instead of waiting until a fever develops. It helps them get necessary treatment early and cuts down on the spread of contagious diseases.”
The thermometer is easy to use either orally, rectally or under arm. It can be synced to the Kinsa app available through Google Play or the Apple App store.
Registering for the app does much more than allow parents to report symptoms and see reports of other families on their child’s grade level. The app can keep track of all family illnesses, give medicine dosages and reminders and even access health benefits. Kinsa sends out a weekly e-newsletter to school participants letting them know what illnesses have been reported for the preceding week.
The FLUency program is funded by Lysol, which sends every staff member a package of Lysol wipes when the smart thermometers are delivered.
“Some teachers told us that their kids had said they didn’t have a thermometer at home,” Keyton said. “These are free, so now those families are able to take their children’s temperatures, when before they might have sent a sick child to school.”
Although Christ the King is the first school in the diocese to apply for the FLUency program, eight public schools in northwest Arkansas and 38 schools overall in the state are also participating. Once a school is accepted into the FLUency program, it will continue to receive smart thermometers for new enrollees each year.
“I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from parents about the program,” Keyton said. “One person wrote that if her family ever moved back to Arkansas again Christ the King would be a top runner for her. Lots of people ask me about it.”
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