Background: The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) and Texas Tech Health Science Center (TTHSC) are responsible for providing health care for approximately 130,000 inmates of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice through a health maintenance organization (HMO). Telemedicine was considered a way to solve some of the problems presented.
Objectives: To develop approaches to patient care, technology, support systems, evaluation, and uses of the system for applications other than patient care as part of the first stage of implementation.
Methods: Four prison delivery unit models were utilized. After a pilot study, the first patients were seen from October 1994 to November 1995, when 1715 consults were conducted in 18 scheduled specialty telemedicine clinics. Patients and providers were surveyed by interviews and questionnaires for their views on this form of providing care.
Results: Ninety-five per cent of the telemedicine consults saved one or more trips to UTMB for outpatient specialty appointments. User surveys indicated a high degree of satisfaction on the part of patients, presenters, and specialty consultants.
Conclusions: Preliminary review of the data indicated favorable care outcomes, and initial economic analyses suggested that telemedicine is likely to be cost-effective in this environment. The project will be continued.