UTMB Reaches Out With Telemedicine

The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston is extending its patient care reach to the Island's West End. Doctors will use the technology of telemedicine. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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UTMB has been heavily involved in telemedicine since the mid-1990's. Assistant Vice President and Electronic Health Network Executive Director Doctor Glenn Hammack says officials are looking at how technology used to treat people as far away as the South Pole can be used to help residents on the other end of the island.

"There's only one road that connects the...uh...west and east ends of the island some twenty miles apart and even though UTMB has significant medical facilities down here at the east end of the island the west end of Galveston island had a pretty long drive, and on a busy summer beach weekend that drive can be a little bit daunting even for an ambulance."

UTMB is starting the "House Calls" program on the weekends from ten to two. It will also be open tomorrow, for the fourth of July holiday. A clinic visit costs 50 dollars. Hammack says it'll be located at the Jamaica Beach City Hall Public Services Building.

"There are paramedics there working next to the patient with telemedicine devices the we called t-carts, or telemedicine carts, that are fully equiped to allow the doctor to see, uh, anything they need to see on the patient. It has special scopes that the paramedics use to look in ears and up noses, down throats and examine skin."

Hammack says the clinic does not replace a full emergency room, but could help in reducing the number of emergency room visits. UTMB reports nearly 80 percnet of emergency calls come from the West End and most happen on the weekends. Hammack says not all require an emergency room visit. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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