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Telemedicine Pilot Aims to Connect EMS with Trauma Centers in Rural West Texas

October 24, 2017
by Heather Landi
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Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) and the Commission on State Emergency Communications (CSEC) are collaborating on a program to implement telemedicine between Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers and a select group of trauma centers in rural West Texas.

Lexington, Mass.-based telemedicine solutions provider swyMed also is a partner in the project.

Located in Lubbock, Texas, TTUHSC’s 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. Currently, patients can be carried 30, 60, 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 I trauma center when their injuries could have been handled in a closer local hospital, according to a press release.

The project will focus on trauma, cardiac, and stroke EMS calls and is based on the idea of Remote Patient Evaluation (RPE), giving the 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. To date, maintaining internet connectivity was identified as a significant obstacle to overcome in these efforts.

According the press release, swyMed’s technology was chosen because it expands telemedicine care to places where it was previously unavailable, delivering high quality video even at the lowest bandwidths and in the most remote areas.

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 utilized 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. “Key to this initiative will be the ability to maintain quality connectivity in these most rural counties of West Texas, which swyMed accomplishes through its data transport protocol, carrier redundancy and the DOT Telemedicine Backpack’s design including enterprise class modems and a sophisticated antenna array,” swyMed officials stated.

 

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