Stratford selected as first telemedicine location for Texas Tech’s Project CHART
Members from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Schools have chosen Stratford as the first site to receive telemedicine technology through Project CHART (Children’s Healthcare Access for Rural Texas).
Texas Tech’s F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health and Human Services received a $6.77 million grant from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to fund Project CHART, which will consist of 30 sites throughout West Texas that will provide telemedicine services specifically for rural children enrolled in Medicaid.
David Lefforge, chief operating officer for the Institute and the Department of Telemedicine, explained that 105 counties throughout West Texas were assessed on four aspects: the number of rural children enrolled in Medicaid, which communities had a rural health care facility, the distance from specialized pediatric care, and the community’s enthusiasm about utilizing the technology.
Lefforge noted that the panel spoke to community leaders in each county to determine which areas demonstrated a true want and need. Due largely to an overwhelmingly positive response from the Stratford community, it was selected as the first site. “Our intention in our program is that there will be quite a bit of use, so we are only going to locations with need and communities that want this. That is why it’s referred to as a community based program,” he said.
Ward Palmer, acute care nurse practitioner for the Stratford Family Medical Clinic, explained that this high-tech consultation device, through a DSL connection, will allow the clinic to network with any physician associated with Texas Tech via live interactive video.
“The basic concept is computer medicine. We’ll have a special computer in our office with special attachments and a video screen,” he said. As a physical assessment is performed, the data and images are transmitted to the specialist in real-time.
Palmer explained that telemedicine is not intended to entirely replace face-to-face assessments; but will spare patients the cost and hassle of traveling when face-to-face visits are not necessary.
Program CHART is specifically for pediatric care of rural children enrolled in Medicaid, but Lefforge explained that adults and non-Medicaid patients will be allowed to use the technology as well. “We have no restrictions for others, but priority is rural children on Medicaid,” he said.
Telemedicine provides convenient access to medical experts, which Lefforge believes will be invaluable to area residents because they will be spared the time and expense of traveling to see a specialist. He said, “A lot of individuals are referred to specialists, but won’t or can’t go. Their conditions can turn serious because that was never done. They end up spending a lot more than they would have, and sometimes we have to tell them that it’s too late.”
Telemedicine installation and training at the Stratford Family Medical Clinic is expected to be complete by late August.