TTUHSC Surgeons Bringing Tele-Trauma to the Texas Panhandle

Shane harperThe TTUHSC Department of Surgery in Amarillo will soon roll out new technology to help smaller rural hospitals and clinics gain direct access to a trauma surgeon in Amarillo. The department’s “Tele-Trauma” project, funded by the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, will provide iPads to rural medical facilities, which will allow them to video conference with a TTUHSC surgeon in real-time.

Shane Harper, a physician assistant with the department and the lead for the new project, said this technology will allow a trained trauma surgeon to remotely examine a patient in a town that could be more than two hours away to see if the patient’s condition warrants them being transported to Amarillo for further treatment, or if they can receive treatment at their local facility.

“Transport time for an acutely injured patient can be up to an hour and a half, and that's an hour and a half where there's really no intervention by someone who practices trauma on a daily basis,” Harper said. “Getting in contact and being able to take care of these patients as soon as possible is really what we're looking to achieve.”

Harper believes this technology also will help cut down on the number of unnecessary transports to Amarillo via helicopter or ambulance.

He said the video software operates like Apple Facetime, but is HIPAA compliant. The iPads given to the providers will be equipped with only one app, called “Secure Video,” which will allow them to dial into the on-call trauma surgeon directly at Northwest Texas Hospital. If the on-call surgeon is not available, a backup surgeon will be able to take the video call.

As part of the grant from the Sid Richardson Foundation, these clinics and hospitals are provided the iPad at no cost, and they are only charged a nominal fee if and when they use the service provided by TTUHSC.

The department introduced the technology to medical providers across the Texas Panhandle, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado at a May 1 dinner. Many of the agencies represented at the dinner believe this could be a great help to their facilities and their patients because of the instant connection with a trauma surgeon.

Harper hopes to have the Tele-trauma project up and running by the end of May, which is National Trauma Awareness Month.

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