CAMERON, TX — Texas A&M University reports hundreds of rural hospitals have closed across the country since 2010, with almost 20% of them located in Texas. So Aggie doctors addressed that problem.
Milam County became the first place to benefit.
Traveling 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.
The county still has a few doctors, but it can take a while to see them. That's not even considering an emergency situation.
"A night. You can spend a night in College Station waiting on the emergency room," said Mueck.
The other nearest hospitals? Round Rock, Taylor, Waco or Temple. The problem got Milam 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.
Texas A&M, which began with an online mental health program, added regular medicine to the lineup this year just as cases of COVID-19 began to rise.
Patients at the OnMed kiosk help the doctors by putting on their own blood pressure cuff and moving the stethoscope around so the remote doctor can hear.
The trade off? Patients can see the same telemetry the doctor does and can even get prescriptions on the spot.
Telemedicine could never totally replace Milam County's two lost 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. Fifteen minutes or less is a lot better than driving for hours," she said.
Because when it comes to medical treatment, sometimes we don't have hours.