Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is Connecting Rural Patients To Doctors

This technology allows doctors to detect skin cancer earlier.

AMARILLO - If you live in a rural community here in the panhandle, you know it can be a long drive before you can see a healthcare specialist. 

Specifically, seeing dermatologists can be challenging. That is a big problem here in the Panhandle because rates of skin cancer in our area are very high. 

The staff at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is working on a solution. New equipment at TTUHSC is making it easier for rural patients to see a dermatologist in Amarillo or Lubbock.

"We can actually use our telemedicine equipment to look at liaisons, talk to the patient and find out what's going on and start recommending treatment," Dr. Alan Sbar, TTUHSC General Surgeon, and Associate Professor said. 

Charli Grinie, a Senior Outreach worker at TTUHSC takes the telemedicine equipment to rural areas. After it's set up, the patient can see the doctor through a webcam and server. This allows the patient and doctor to have a conversation. The camera on the telemedicine equipment is crystal clear, so even though the patient isn't with the doctor, the image looks just like the real thing. 

"The biggest thing is that the doctors make you feel so comfortable, that the patients, they have a relationship with them. I mean, they're introduced, I step out of the picture, they have communication. The follow-ups are great. It's just like having a regular doctor right there in your community," Grinie explained. 

This technology allows doctors to detect skin cancer earlier and prevent it from becoming more harmful. 

Right now, this service is in three rural communities with the goal of expanding throughout the panhandle. 

Dr. Sbar explained prevention is key. It is important to use sunscreen every day, even if you're not at the beach or in a hot area. Skin protection is a year-round effort. 

This service is offered to Medicare and Medicaid patients in Amarillo who need to see a dermatologist. The process works the same way, patients come to TTUHSC in Amarillo then using the telemedicine equipment, they can talk to dermatologists in Lubbock. 

If you would like more information on the program, you can contact Charli Grinie directly at 806-414-9691 or email at charli.grinie@ttuhsc.edu. 

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