The Telemedicine Program at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center’s (TTUHSC) F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health recently received a four-year $1,308,242 grant to create the TexLa Telehealth Resource Center. The Office for the Advancement of Telehealth within HRSA awarded the grant to TTUHSC.
“This is the first award of its kind for Texas and it is awarded in recognition of the excellence of the telehealth work that our telemedicine team has done to link rural communities to specialists who are often located in urban centers,” said Billy U. Philips, PhD, Executive Vice President and Director for the F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health.
“A recent AHRQ report ranking several metrics for all states shows that the overall healthcare quality was in the weak category for Texas and Louisiana,” Philips said. “The use of telehealth resources can also improve both states and their ability to better manage chronic conditions and improve population health outcomes.”
Strengthening primary care services is a priority in all of the contemporary healthcare reform plans. At present, Texas ranks 48th and Louisiana ranks 23rd in the number of primary care providers per 100,000 populations. Both states face challenges with respect to physician and other healthcare workforces not because of an overall shortage, but because of a sharp disparity in the allocation of healthcare resources in different parts of the states.
The TexLa Telehealth Resource Center will be comprised of university telehealth programs at TTUHSC and the Louisiana State University Health Care Services Division. “We will address five primary objectives that will develop, expand, and improve efficiency and outcomes of telehealth across the region,” said Debbie Voyles, Director of the Telemedicine Program at TTUHSC’s F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health.
The F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health supports rural citizens through the Telehealth Resource Center, the West Texas Area Health Education Center, Project FRONTIER, the West Texas Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center, and through the Telemedicine Program.
The history of telemedicine at TTUHSC began in 1989 as a grant funded research project originally designed to connect the institute’s campuses in Lubbock, Amarillo, Odessa, and El Paso. With the use of distance communications for education and teleconferencing, links were then made from Lubbock to distant rural sites to do live medical consultations.