Texas is launching a “Next Generation 911” pilot project, deploying telehealth services in emergency medical services (EMS) settings to extend trauma care accessibility in rural areas. This initiative, a collaboration between the Commission on State Emergency Communications and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, aims to provide telehealth consultations for EMS and pre-hospital trauma care. Regional trauma centers will participate, offering support from healthcare professionals. The program will be evaluated, and findings presented by December 31, 2028. This mirrors a growing trend of integrating telehealth into EMS services, benefiting both emergency and non-emergency cases.
Texas is embarking on an innovative initiative aimed at enhancing access to trauma care in rural areas through the deployment of telehealth services within emergency medical services (EMS) settings.
Recently, the Texas House of Representatives passed legislation, effective September 1, establishing the “Next Generation 911” pilot project. This endeavor is a collaborative effort between the Commission on State Emergency Communications and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Its primary objective is to offer telehealth consultations for EMS and pre-hospital trauma care.
This telehealth service will be accessible to healthcare providers in trauma facilities as well as EMS providers situated in remote regions. Regional trauma resource centers will be pivotal in delivering this telehealth support, enlisting a team of medical professionals, including physicians, pharmacists, emergency personnel, and other healthcare experts. The selection of rural trauma facilities, EMS providers, and regional trauma resource centers for participation in this pilot project will be overseen by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in conjunction with the Commission.
In addition to selecting participants, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and the Commission will collaboratively design criteria and protocols for each telehealth service. Furthermore, they will establish guidelines to determine when a patient receiving telehealth-assisted care should be transferred to an emergency medical resource center.
Data collection and evaluation of the project’s outcomes will be conducted by both the Commission and the Health Sciences Center. They are required to present their findings to the governor and legislative leaders by December 31, 2028.
Participating regional trauma resource centers must adhere to stringent quality assurance standards, including compliance with predefined protocols. They should also implement EMS and emergency pre-hospital care protocols endorsed by an EMS-trained medical director and have the necessary resources to deliver telehealth services and the associated training required for the project.
This initiative reflects the growing trend of integrating telehealth into EMS services. South Dakota’s Department of Health initiated a partnership called “Telemedicine in Motion” with EMS agencies statewide and Avel eCare, a Sioux Falls-based telehealth company. This partnership facilitates virtual triage and consulting services between EMS agencies and hospitals through two-way audio and video communication within ambulances.
Similar efforts have been observed at the county level, such as the collaboration between Columbia County Emergency Medical Services and UCM Digital Health, which provides virtual care services for emergency cases in Columbia County, New York.
Telehealth is also being utilized to extend care beyond emergency scenarios. For instance, Mount Sinai EMS in New York City launched a program in conjunction with Mount Sinai’s Department of Emergency Medicine to offer telehealth options to patients making non-urgent 911 ambulance calls. This program, initiated as part of the federal Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport (ET3) pilot, enables emergency medical technicians to connect patients virtually with emergency medicine providers via tablets when it is determined that they do not require immediate emergency care.