Texas Tech trauma surgeons will cover 131,459 square miles through telemedicine

The initiative, covering massive West Texas, aims to gauge the effectiveness of telehealth technology in rural emergency medical services environments.
By Bill Siwicki
12:39 PM
Texas Tech trauma telemedicine program

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, the Commission on State Emergency Communications and telemedicine technology vendor swyMed are partnering on a program to implement telemedicine between emergency medical services providers and a select group of trauma centers in rural West Texas.

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center service area covers 108 counties and 131,459 square miles, which is larger than New York, New England and the District of Columbia combined. The objective of the project, funded by Texas House Bill 479, is to improve patient outcomes by using telemedicine technology to bring the judgment of trauma surgeons into the back of ambulances to assess and direct treatment.

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Currently, patients can be carried 30 to 90 minutes or more in an ambulance to the nearest hospital only to find that the facility is not equipped to handle their needs. Or they can be airlifted to a Level 1 trauma center when their injuries could have been handled in a closer local hospital.

The new project will focus on trauma, cardiac and stroke emergency calls and is based on the idea of remote patient evaluation, giving a physician the tools to see and observe the injuries and accident site so treatment can begin immediately and the patient is brought to the most appropriate destination for care, via the most appropriate means.

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To date, maintaining Internet connectivity was identified as a significant obstacle to overcome in these efforts. Key to this initiative will be the ability to maintain quality connectivity in these most rural counties of West Texas, which swyMed will accomplish through its data transport protocol, carrier redundancy and its DOT Telemedicine Backpack’s design that includes enterprise-class modems and a sophisticated antenna array, swyMed said.

In the pilot, swyMed’s telemedicine equipment, including the DOT Telemedicine Backpack, is being installed in ten test ambulances, and LTE/4G cellular signal from Verizon and AT&T will be used to link those ambulances to both local trauma centers and University Medical Center in Lubbock. Over the next four years, as the program contract is renewed, additional ambulances and counties served will be added.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com