TTUHSC has established several rural health care projects utilizing telemedicine. One such project is located in the Big Bend Region and connects to the remote community of Alpine. The Big Bend area of Texas is one of the most remote areas in the country and has less medical care per resident than any other location in Texas. With telemedicine, the hospital in Alpine is linked to the HSC Lubbock campus.
Another project currently underway at TTUHSC is with the school health clinic located in Hart, Texas. Through this project, the school nurse, who is the only health care provider in the town, can link with specialists in Lubbock. This project has saved patients and their families miles of driving and has contributed to improved school attendance. The telemedicine project at Hart ISD has been so successful that TTUHSC is considering developing additional school-based telemedicine clinics in West Texas.
Texas Tech also has telemedicine links to several rural clinics in the "colonias" the border region near El Paso. The remote clinics are connected to the TTUHSC El Paso campus which provides services ranging from specialty care to diabetes education.
TelepharmacyThe first telepharmacy project in Texas was launched by Texas Tech in September 2002, linking a private clinic in remote Turkey, Texas to the Texas Tech School of Pharmacy in Lubbock. Using a telemedicine system, university pharmacists in Lubbock, 75 miles from Turkey, can counsel patients and visually supervise the dispensing of prescriptions. Based upon a formulary of the most commonly prescribed drugs by the clinic's physician, drugs are prepackaged and sent to the Turkey clinic in advance. When a prescription is written for one of the drugs, the videoconference link is then established to create the long-distance pharmacy. The project saves residents of the Texas panhandle community hundreds of miles and hours of driving time to the nearest retail pharmacies. And, it allows for drug treatment to begin immediately.
School-Based TelemedicineThe school-based clinic at Hart, Texas takes caring for children to new extremes with the first telemedicine school clinic in Texas. Hart is a rural farming community of 1,200 people located 70 miles northwest of Lubbock, where TTUHSC is located. The school nurse is the only resident medical personnel in the community. Since 1993, a TTUHSC pediatrician and medical residents have traveled to Hart once a week to treat children at the school clinic. In 1998, a weekly telemedicine clinic was added to the on-site clinic to double physician coverage. The goals of the telemedicine program have been to increase the Hart students’ access to health care of comparable quality to on-site visits, to evaluate the responsiveness of physicians and child patients to telemedicine, and to expose pediatric residents to telemedicine.
Telemedicine Burn CareTexas Tech has developed a new burn treatment telemedicine system, allowing El Paso area burn patients to receive follow-up treatment over television from Lubbock. With no burn center in El Paso, many patients from the area were forced to travel 600-mile roundtrips to Lubbock for initial and follow-up burn treatment. Now, with the assistance of on-site personnel at the El Paso campus using the TVs and cameras, the interdisciplinary team in Lubbock (comprised of the burn specialist, burn nurse, and physical therapist) evaluates and treats the patients in the same manner that they would if the patient were in the office.
Border TelemedicineThe rapid growth of population along the Texas-Mexico border continues to stress limited, overburdened health care systems. Residents of colonias and small communities in the upper Rio Grande area and through the Texas Big Bend region face many challenges. They have little or no access to health care because of remote distance, limited means of transportation, as well as cultural and financial barriers.
Although many border area colonias and communities do not have sufficient population to support a physician, such areas can be networked with telemedicine. Texas Tech is successfully using telemedicine to address some of the border health issues by linking clinics in several rural communities and colonias to the TTUHSC El Paso campus. Besides health care services, valuable diabetes education is electronically communicated to the high risk population.