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Telehealth station in Milam County first of its kind in Texas, bridging accessibility gap in rural areas

Posted at 8:02 PM, Jun 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-21 21:02:37-04

MILAM COUNTY, TEXAS — There's no denying rural areas of Texas are faced with the challenge of having the lack of access to health care, especially after hours care.

The same holds true for Milam County.

The unique technology in Texas, that only Milam County has, is helping bring urgent health care to those who need it.

After hours healthcare options in Milam County are limited, in fact, there are none... except this kiosk.

"We don't have hospitals," Milam County Judge Steve Young said. "We don't have after hours care. We don't have an emergency room, but what we do have is this telehealth machine which helps take its place."

Young is referring to the telehealth station from Texas A&M Health and OnMed, the first teleheath station of its kind in Texas.

The unique technology gives anyone access to a health care physician and it's located at the Milam County Sheriff's Office.

The telehealth station is housed at the Sheriff's Office, because it is just one of the only two buildings in the entire county that do not lock at night and have security.

"The closest hospital in any direction is 30-40 miles," Dr. Joy Alonzo, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center said. "This is a way you can talk to a healthcare professional immediately."

Dr. Alonzo says when the two hospitals that used to exist in Milam County closed their doors, there was a huge gap in access to after hours care which needed to be filled.

"The video is super high quality," Dr. Alonzo said. "We actually installed fiber optic cable into the county, so that we would have a sufficient video exchange rate."

Dr. Alonzo says once you step into the station, the technology will sense your presence and there are numerous devices that help health professionals during your visit.

"There's a digital blood pressure cuff, unlike the kind you might see at Walmart or at CVS, but there's also a pulse oximeter that takes the amount of oxygen that is in your blood," Dr. Alonzo said. "There is also an IR camera that not only takes your temperature, but will do a scan of your entire body and will report back to the nurse practitioner any kind of hot spots that there might be on you body. Also, a high definition camera will deploy from the ceiling."

The Telehealth station has been open for patient care since November and the patient usability data they have received is favorable, according to Dr. Alonzo.

There are people who may be reluctant to use the equipment, but when those people overcome that feeling and actually go, people will find the technology to be extremely easy to use, said Dr. Alonzo.

"Much easier than trying to arrange a telehealth session over the phone," Dr. Alonzo said.

She says the telehealth station was delivered last July.

Michelle Morgan, the executive director for Economic Development in Milam County said it's important to have options for health care, and that this is a unique tool that can be used.

"$45 per visit and you get to speak with a medical provider," Morgan said. "It's also open Mon-Sat 7am-7pm so it does gap some of that after hours care."

It's very similar to a walk-in or in-person doctor's appointment, according to Morgan.

"You walk in, press start and get connected with a medical provider," Morgan said. "There's nothing scary about it. It really does give you a real life experience."