A Touchdown for Telehealth

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As telemedicine becomes more widely accepted by both patients and the medical field, more specialized uses for the technology continue to emerge. One use case is for sports injuries, such as concussions. The official hospital for the Houston Texans, an NFL team, will begin a pilot program using telemedicine for concussion treatment thanks to funding from the Houston Texans and GE Healthcare.

Houston Methodist Hospital’s Concussion Center will be the base for the program, and will help 19 rural school districts and impact 50 students. When a student athlete is pulled for a concussion, an athletic trainer will go to the school supplied with a Microsoft Surface. Once there, the athletic trainer will use an app called the imPact neurocognitive assessment, and Skype with a physician at the Houston Methodist Concussion Center to perform a comprehensive concussion assessment. There are a few barriers to the program, however, including connectivity issues at the schools and the general knowledge of concussions in rural areas.

If the program is successful, it will be made available statewide to schools and student athletes. Texas has seen improvement of treatment and diagnosis of sports-related concussions due to the passage of Natasha’s Law, which requires athletic trainers and coaches to receive training on concussions.

Neuropsychologist and director of the concussion center, Dr. Kenneth Podell states that still isn’t enough. Since a lot of the schools do not have athletic trainers, all treatment falls on coaches’ shoulders, meaning students are still not receiving comprehensive concussion treatment. This telemedicine program could help fill that need for these schools and eventually – hopefully – statewide.