I first highlighted the new service of library telehealth in May 2019 (HHH: Telehealth). Then a couple of years later, I revisited the topic in March 2021 (HHH: Library Telehealth Visits Revisited) to explore how the pandemic had intensified the need for this service and why libraries were a good fit to help provide it.
Since then, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has provided funding to libraries to support emergency services such as telehealth in response to the pandemic. With some of our ARPA funding, TSLAC launched its first ever Texas Telehealth Grant Program which awarded four public libraries with the equipment and resources needed to facilitate a telehealth project at their facilities.
Today’s highlight returns to one of my personal favorite topics: Telehealth.
New to the idea of telehealth services available in libraries?
This 3-minute video made by the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) is a great introduction and stars Texas’ own Pottsboro Library, featuring Dianne Connery, nationally recognized pioneer in this space. You can also learn more by listening to this NNLM podcast.
Texas Telehealth Grant Program
Through the Texas Telehealth Grant Program, TSLAC was able to fund the creation of telehealth facilities in four public libraries. The four locations range considerably in size and geographic region. Here is a brief summary of the four public library grantees’ telehealth programs:
Hillsboro City Library (Hillsboro):
Population served: 8,221
- The telehealth program launched in August 2022, with telehealth rooms available to the public.
- Staff gave out telehealth promotional materials at their first-ever health fair, hosted by the county, and provided presentations to local civic organizations.
- People are still using the telehealth rooms.
McAllen Public Library (McAllen):
Population served: 219,705
- A fully contained “Nook Solo Booth” was installed inside the library with a touch screen monitor, ring light, and webcam.
- The program was promoted locally with a vinyl wrap for the booth, plus newspaper print and digital advertisements.
- Multiple community and family health fairs were held in conjunction with the service.
- Custom signs were printed to promote the telehealth program across the community, including at City Hall.
Austin Public Library (Austin):
Population served: 961,855
With the grant funding, APL was able to explore the service and learned much from the experience.
- Though they’d hoped to fund four portable rooms in different branch locations, funding only supported the purchase of a portable consultation cubicle in a single branch.
- For security and safety reasons, these portable consultation cubicles have glass walls and are not soundproof, which creates challenges in creating privacy. As these are installed in meeting rooms, programming, community meetings, and events takes precedence over the use of the cubicles in this shared space.
- Despite offering the space for telehealth, they received zero customer requests or use of telehealth services in the two libraries where these cubicles were installed. Some possible reasons for this are that Austin has many neighborhood community clinics, including mobile clinic units. In an urban city, having immediate on-demand access to healthcare experts to answer questions and help navigate other care is thought to be an expected level of service for most residents. Plus, many residents have sufficient Internet connectivity to engage with healthcare providers in the privacy and convenience of their home and with family or caregivers.
- APL was able to use other ARPA funding from TSLAC to successfully advance their efforts to support their community’s digital access and literacy.
Jeff Davis County Library (Fort Davis):
Population served: 2,220
- Their telehealth room opened to the public on March 26 as part of a hugely successful local community health fair sponsored by the library.
- The room was promoted in the local weekly newspaper, in-library signage, social media posts, and in county meetings.
- Like Pottsboro Library, they have contracted with the UNT Health Science Center to start providing telehealth services to help patrons connect with a doctor willing to conduct telehealth visits.
- They are also planning a second annual health fair in May 2023 to help get the word out about the service.
Are you considering following in these grantees’ footsteps and offering telehealth services at your library, or are you already doing it? Want to learn more? Please email me with subject line “Telehealth” if you have stories, ideas, or resources to share—or if you just want to stay in the loop with regard to library telehealth in Texas.