Prior Telemedicine Projects
The first telepharmacy project in Texas was launched by Texas Tech in September 2002, linking a private clinic in remote Turkey, Texas to the Texas Tech School of Pharmacy in Lubbock. Using a telemedicine system, university pharmacists in Lubbock, 75 miles from Turkey, could counsel patients and visually supervise the dispensing of prescriptions. Based upon a formulary of the most commonly prescribed drugs by the clinic's physician, drugs were prepackaged and sent to the Turkey clinic in advance. When a prescription was written for one of the drugs, the videoconference link was then established to create the long-distance pharmacy. The project saved residents of the Texas panhandle community hundreds of miles and hours of driving time to the nearest retail pharmacies. And, it allowed for drug treatment to begin immediately. However, due to funding issues due to the high cost of maintaining a formulary in a small community, the project ended in 2009. Many lessons were learned that will allow future Telepharmacy projects to be more successful.
Assisted Living Project
The use of telemedicine in assisted living and nursing facilities is a growing project area for many telemedicine programs across the nation, especially in view of the expected growth of such facilities as the “baby boomer” generation ages. With the use of telemedicine equipment, physicians and health care providers can be electronically brought to the facility, often eliminating the need to transport the patient off site from the nursing home for care. This lessens the risk of a fall or injury to the patient during transportation, and, avoids the expense of the transport.
The first assisted living project for Texas Tech was the Carillon Telemedicine Pilot Project in 2001. The Family Medicine Department of TTUHSC was linked to the Carillon assisted living facility in Lubbock. During the study period, physicians at Tech were successfully able to deliver a variety of primary care with very high patient satisfaction. The project demonstrated that telemedicine is a viable tool for use in nursing homes.
Telemedicine knowledge and expertise gained from the Carillon project was then applied in the Garrison Education and Care Center project, a teaching nursing home which opened summer 2002 on the campus of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock. At the Garrison Center, Texas Tech is continued to research telemedicine applications with aging and Alzheimer’s patients.
Texas Tech is looking to help rural nursing homes develop a telemedicine program. Many rural nursing home across West Texas are located in communities without a hospital or physician. And, in many instances, the nursing home medical director is also miles away. Texas Tech physicians believe that telemedicine can be used to greatly enhance the level of on-site care in such nursing homes and virtually eliminate unnecessary ambulance transportation. The technology can also be used to provide much needed training for rural home personnel.
Telemedicine efforts with assisted living facilities broaden the capabilities of Tech to assist with delivering rural health care and teaching the health care providers of the future. Ultimately, telemedicine could be a part of everyday life in nursing and assisted living centers across West Texas.