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Texas A&M telehealth programs to expand in coming years

Texas A&M telehealth programs to expand in coming years

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Some Brazos Valley and South Texas residents will have new telehealth options available to them in the coming years as Texas A&M University prepares to expand some of its services.

The new opportunities are made possible by a $349,937 five-year grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration that the university received this week. Funds will go toward researching telehealth while also expanding telehealth services the school already offers, said Carly McCord, director of telebehavioral health for Texas A&M Health Science Center.

Increasing access to maternal care telehealth services to people in Navasota and making psychological services accessible to people in South Texas’ Jim Hogg County are included in early plans for the program. The work in Jim Hogg County will be in partnership with Community Action Corporation of South Texas.

Some of the expanded services could become available to people next year. But for now, officials will make extensive plans for how to move forward with spending the funds and ensuring all the necessary workers are trained and that the software is in place to make everything possible.

“Texas has a lot of hurdles in access to health care and primary care, but behavioral health even more so,” McCord said. “So I want to know what works and why it works. To get to be part of it is a great opportunity.”

Texas A&M was one of many institutions to recently earn funds to improve telehealth studies and services. The Biden administration announced in a Wednesday press release that more than $19 million was poured into expanding telehealth in rural and underserved areas across the country through the Health Resources & Services Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funds.

The $19 million is split up among four key programs, as explained in the release. A&M was one of 11 institutions selected for the “evidence-based direct to consumer telehealth network program.” This group is meant to expand access to health services in primary care, acute care and behavioral care, which is essentially mental health care.

McCord said that one of the most important parts of the funding is right in the title — “direct to consumer.” For years, McCord said that telehealth has required people to go to a site within their community where they can get on a video call with a clinic somewhere else that has the staff available to help that patient. The more recent push in the telehealth field, McCord said, has been to provide the services directly to patients.

“In this round of funding,” McCord said, “they really want to look at that direct to consumer side of telehealth, and I think that’s where this project will specifically be pushing the envelope — to expand the high-quality care that we’ve already offered in our in-person clinics, and offered in a hub-and-spoke modality, and stretch that to say, ‘What all can we do well directly to your home, directly to the consumer.’”

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