ODESSA, Texas — It’s been three years since the COVID-19 pandemic had world-wide impacts that included an increased need for digital health, or telehealth.
The telehealth department at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, or TTUHSC, has long been a strong program, and they recently named a new executive director.
TTUHSC named John Gachago into the role, and he brings 15 years of experience and plenty of ambition as well.
As Gachago begins leading an already impressive telehealth department, he is first aiming to learn where the program currently is so they can determine how to improve it further.
“Telehealth is the equalizer for those who do not have access to easy health care in rural areas," said Gachago.
Gachago has been in his new position for less than two weeks, but he has already made some positive early impressions of what makes the program unique.
“It is the people, the people, the people, starting with President Rice-Spearman, who have a heart for the people of West Texas," said Gachago. "You know, there’s a real concerted effort, real intentional effort to deliver really superior care to the people in West Texas and beyond.”
As telehealth continues to emerge as an important innovative addition to healthcare, TTUHSC is aiming to take another step forward.
The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Odessa is one that is equipped with telemedicine capability, and Gachago plans to visit several locations soon to get a sense of the situations and how they can improve them.
“What can we do to make the telehealth were delivering here even better?" said Gachago. "What additional tools do you need? How can we support your growth as far as making sure people have access, people are treated on time, people get the quality care that they deserve.”
With people becoming more welcoming to telehealth following it’s use during the pandemic, there is still a lot of room to expand it past just virtual visits.
“There [are] wearables, there [are] in-home virtual assistants, there [are] personal health records, there [are], of course, electronic health records, even using things as simple as your smart phone to take a picture of your skin, or, perhaps even, just secure text messaging to say ‘I’m experiencing these symptoms’," said Gachago. "All of these things play into what I call a digital health ecosystem that we haven’t really even began to fully tap into.”
Gachago said that the growth of telehealth can help the current health care workforce shortage. It will also add new healthcare positions with more technology.
In regard to what he is most excited about, it was building a digital health ecosystem at TTUHSC that serves the people of West Texas, as well as trying to make it a global standard.