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Texas Tech Announces Institute of Telehealth and Digital Innovation

More than 30 years after venturing into telemedicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center continues health outreach and services with new technologies to connect 108 West Texas counties.

September's Telehealth Week at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The center's president spoke.
Texas Tech UHSC
Although telehealth took center stage nationally during the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) started using telehealth resources for patients in rural areas and those with access barriers 35 years before the pandemic.

This week, the university announced the establishment of the TTUHSC Institute of Telehealth and Digital Innovation.

TTUHSC President Lori Rice-Spearman, Ph.D., said the new institute is a part of the university's continued commitment to providing health-care access through innovation.

“Serving the health-care needs of people in this region has and will continue to be our purpose,” Rice-Spearman said in a news release. “But as health care transitions to a technology-driven ecosystem, it is imperative that we make that pivot as well, by leveraging digital technologies to expand access to underserved areas and also to transform health care through proactively managing acute and chronic diseases and engaging the patient in their own health care as preventative measures.”

John Gachago, executive director of the new institute, explained that digital health is the umbrella term for telehealth or telemedicine.

“When we look at digital health, it includes all tools involved in leveraging technology to improve health care such as the cloud, electronic health records, mobile disease management applications, in-home monitoring solutions and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things to enhance access to care, improve research and drive digital health education," Gachago said.

TTUHSC's telehealth programs continue to bridge the barriers in the 108-county service area of West Texas through new projects and innovations to expand telemedicine into rural areas.

Telemedicine began at TTUHSC in 1989 and was designed to connect the university's original four campuses in Lubbock, Amarillo, Odessa and El Paso, eventually expanding to connect the Lubbock campus to distant rural sites for the purpose of medical consultations.

Efforts will be aimed at helping rural communities where they are and supporting their infrastructure for expanded access to health care through a "hub-and-spoke" model, which will center around establishing health-care hubs at TTUHSC's campuses.

From this, the institute will "push" health-care services out to rural, underserved areas via telehealth by partnering with local entities to utilize existing resources within the community and in TTUHSC's network rather than pulling health care away from rural communities.

(c)2023 the Odessa American. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.