CAMERON, TX — Texas A&M University reports hundreds of rural hospitals have closed across the country since 2010, and almost 20 percent of them, closed in Texas. So Aggie Doctors addressed that problem. Milam County became the first place to benefit.
Here's something important to consider: Travel through certain parts of Texas could get risky, especially if your travels take you through places like Milam County which has no hospitals for 30 miles or more.
When Milam County's two hospitals closed down, they put folks like Sherry Mueck in a bad spot. "We do most of our doctor's appointments in College Station which is more than an hour's drive for me," she said.
Milam still has a few doctors but it can take a while to see them and let's not even get into emergencies.
"A night, you can spend a night in College Station, waiting on the emergency room," said Mueck. Or Round Rock, Taylor, Waco or Temple which have the nearest hospitals.
It got County Judge Steve Young thinking outside the box about hospitals "there's 26 that have recently closed, there's 46 in the state that are operating in the red. So we've been looking for anything we can to try to fix that," he explained.
He found an "inside the box" solution; telemedicine, a doctor on TV.
Texas A&M, which began with an online mental health program this year added regular medicine to the lineup, and not a moment too soon, as coronavirus cases keep popping up.
Patients at the "On Med" kiosk help the TV doctors by putting on their own blood pressure cuff and moving the stethoscope around so the remote doctor can hear. The trade-off? they can actually see the same telemetry the doctor does, and can even get prescriptions on the spot.
Telemedicine could never totally replace Milam County's two last hospitals, but it could fill an important gap, especially on nights and weekends when local doctor's offices close.
Sherry Mueck, says, the "doc in a box gives her a little peace of mind. "I'll drive to Rockdale. 15 minutes or less is a lot better than driving for hours."
When it comes to medical treatment, sometimes we don't have hours.