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Emergency Management 18


Recommendation

Texas telemedicine providers and others with electronic networks across the state, such as the Texas Education Agency, should work together to develop disaster plans using telemedicine and incorporate these plans in the Texas Telemedicine/Telehealth Master Plan and, as appropriate, in the state’s Emergency Management Plan.


Summary

The number of telemedicine sites across Texas has grown in recent years, as federal and state funds have been available to purchase equipment. Texas policies, including recommendations from the Texas Comptroller’s office to expand the use of telemedicine, have allowed programs like Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance and the Children with Special Health Care Needs programs to expand reimbursement policies for telemedicine.

To date, no comprehensive directory of telemedicine sites across the state exists. The Texas Department of Health (TDH) is compiling a database on telemedicine sites, which is part of the work of the State Health Coordinating Council of TDH. The council has assembled the Texas Telemedicine/Telehealth State Plan Workgroup, composed of telemedicine experts, to develop a white paper on multiple issues affecting telemedicine and to identify specific policy needs. The workgroup will complete the first draft of the white paper on November 1, 2001 and have a final draft planned for January 2002.[1]

The Texas Telemedicine/Telehealth State Plan Workgroup should develop emergency plans for using telemedicine during disasters. Texas’ medical schools and other medical sites can redirect the use of equipment to provide expert consultation to remote areas affected by a disaster. After meeting immediate needs, mental health authorities can use the equipment to deliver mental health services to victims, disaster responders or families, or in training for emergency responses.


Fiscal Impact

This recommendation would have no significant fiscal impact on the state. Existing telemedicine sites will be used to provide telemedicine services.


[1] Telephone interview with Nick Hoover, planner, Texas Department of Health, Austin, Texas, October 10, 2001.