New law to implement telehealth medicine inside ambulances

Published: Aug. 28, 2023 at 7:49 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - In rural communities, emergency access to care can be scarce; in a trauma situation, the first 30 minutes are the most important.

Texas is trying to overcome this issue with technology. In towns surrounding Lubbock county, it can take an hour or longer to get to the nearest hospital, meaning the most critical moments of care are spent on the road.

“We’re shortening the length of time from the need to the care,” Executive Vice President and Director for Rural and Community Health, Dr. Billy Philips said.

Many health care workers like Philips, refer to the first hour after a traumatic injury as the “golden hour”.

“The quicker we can get people at the time of their trauma to begin their planning and execution of treatment, the better the outcomes will be,” Philips said.

University Medical Center in Lubbock is the only Level 1 trauma center between Dallas and Albuquerque. Many communities outside Lubbock depend on their own resources.

“We needed a solution that would allow the people who run the trauma centers to actually visualize the trauma,” Philips said.

House Bill 617, effective Sept. 1, is a pilot project aimed at providing emergency telemedicine medical services and telehealth before and during the trip to the hospital.

“It will allow the emergency department staff to observe the patient, where it occurred as they transport and guide that,” he said. “Then a lot of things can be started, so when you come in they don’t need to be duplicated.”

The trick is guaranteeing internet access in the back of an ambulance in rural areas of West Texas, where service may be spotty.

“We found a solution to that: a software that constantly searches for the strongest signal wherever it is,” he said.

The EMS units will be equipped with the technology and the crews will be trained so lifesaving measures can be taken during the ride to the hospital.

“A lot of things that people need immediately can be taken care of efficiently with just that encounter,” he said.

Once they are installed, each of these telemedicine units will connect to the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, the only provider involved in the project.

The program will last for five years, then the Health Sciences Center will report its findings to the legislature for further expansion.