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Ask The Expert: Q&A With Christy Ankrom From University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

October 17, 2017

Welcome to our “Ask an Expert” blog series, where we’ll highlight lessons learned and best practices from our telehealth experts. This month we’re featuring Christy Ankrom, Telehealth Program Manager at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

How did you become involved in telemedicine?               

Our department started in 2003 with three sites and a small grant from the Department of Defense. We relaunched in 2010 with help from a philanthropic campaign to expand to the telehealth network we have today. I personally became involved because I worked for Dr. Jim Grotta, the chair of our department at the time, and I was interested in starting something that widened our access to patients outside of the Houston area.

What is your telehealth strategy? Why is telemedicine important for your health system?            

Our strategy is to use telehealth as a standard of care, rather than a supplement to care. Telemedicine is important because we feel that patients should have access to the same doctors regardless of where they live, and telemedicine provides that possibility by bridging the time and space gap.

What best practices do you follow to help with getting various stakeholders on-board with telehealth?

It's best to get everyone in the room the first time, so that we all have the same conversation. Too often, when fragmented group meetings are held, information gets translated differently and needs do not get addressed or met. When you have everyone in the room, most of the time there will be no question about what the mission, strategy, and process involve.

What kinds of benefits have you seen with your telehealth program?     

The biggest benefit we have seen is with patient satisfaction. Patients love telemedicine! They are always grateful to see an expert right away, and not have to be transferred to the "big city" to get the same care. For patients and caregivers, being able to stay in their own community is a big relief.

What advice would you offer your peers looking to improve or grow their telehealth program?

When you meet resistance, keep trying! A lot of resistance is usually about misconception. Have the discussions, have simulations, get champions involved. If you are lucky enough to have a system that is pushing you to implement, count yourself as lucky and RUN WITH IT!