University of Texas System set to create statewide telemedicine network

The University of Texas System on Thursday approved the use of its $48.5 million endowment to create a statewide telemedicine network, as well as for research and faculty recruitment, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The Board of Regents met in Galveston, Texas, on Thursday, the news organization previously reported, to discuss the proposed UT System Virtual Heath Network, among other matters. UT System comprises of eight academic universities and six health institutions.

The telemedicine network will be supported by $10.8 million of the endowment over a time period of four years, building on current telemedicine services of the system.

In addition to UT System's six health institutions, medical schools at UT-Austin and UT-Grand Rio Valley also will participate in the telemedicine program.

"Texas should really be the poster child for telemedicine with its huge geographic distances and concentrations of where the specialists are," Raymond Greenberg, UT System's executive vice chancellor for health affairs, told the Statesman.

That, however, is not the case, as the Lone Star State continues to be embroiled in telemedicine controversy.

In December, a judge for a second time sided with telemedicine company Teladoc in a court battle with the Texas Medical Board, which wants to require in-person visits before the use of telemedicine to prescribe medications. Teladoc is fighting that rule, and the two have been wrangling in court over the telemedicine language since 2011. Rules proposed last month by the Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors would require licensed professionals to practice in Texas and perform a face-to-face intake session before a telehealth counseling, according to the American Telemedicine Association.

In addition, in a report released by the American Telemedicine Association earlier this month, Texas saw its grade when it comes to physician practice standards on telemedicine use drop from an "A" to a "B."

To learn more:
- here's the original Austin American-Statesman report
- read the followup article