Telemedicine changing Texas rural health and emergency medicine

The expanded use of telemedicine in Texas–controversial and delayed by the state medical society, despite its use in distance medicine and prisons–is slowly starting to change rural health in the state. SB1107 passed the Texas legislature in 2017, removing the previous requirement for an in-person medical consultation. Texas, like many Western states, has an acute shortage of primary care doctors in 184 of 254 counties, according to the state health service.

Where telemedicine fills that gap is in areas such as emergency rooms in rural hospitals. In Van Horn, population 2,000, with the next hospital 90 miles away, telemedicine enables the ER  to operate two trauma rooms and for the state, have a doctor there well within 30 minutes away which is the state requirement for a basic-level trauma facility. The ER connects with an office building in Sioux Falls, SD to a nurse and doctor on immediate call to help oversee care via the Avera eCare telemedicine system.

Universities have also worked to diversify telemedicine use in other settings. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center has pioneered its use in ambulances and schools. The regional TexLa Telehealth Resource Center helps anyone looking to start a telemedicine project. By 2020, the University of Texas will have telemedicine fully implemented on campus. Houston Chronicle

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