Autonomous Vehicles and Drones May Help Address Rural Healthcare Disparities

Autonomous vehicles, drones, and tele-enabled ambulance services are being considered to address rural health disparities by a partnership between Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas and Texas A&M Health Science Center. The joint project will research innovative care delivery strategies and other rural health issues.

BCBS of Texas is contributing $10 million to the Health Science Center as a part of the Affordability Cures program to reduce healthcare costs, address health disparities and improve social determinants of health. Projects will look at engaging vulnerabilities and improving access to healthcare, which will include the use of autonomous vehicles, drones, and tele-enabled ambulances as a way to provide better access to rural areas. Research will also analyze the impact of hospital closure on common conditions,  study a network that fits the size of community it serves, and evaluate how communities are able to deal with chronic conditions such as diabetes.

“Technology has the potential to solve some of the most pressing rural healthcare issues in Texas,” said Dr. Dan McCoy, president of BCBSTX via release. “This collaboration with the Texas A&M Health Science Center is a bold step towards taking innovative research and thinking out of the laboratory and using it to address real healthcare challenges facing rural and underserved communities in Texas, and perhaps across the United States.”

“As a land-grant institution, Texas A&M has a mission to serve rural Texans. This region of our state is vital to our economic success,” said Carrie L. Byington, MD, vice chancellor for health services at The Texas A&M University System, senior vice president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and dean of the Texas A&M College of Medicine via release. “Through innovative research and forward-thinking care delivery strategies resulting from this commitment, we will ensure rural Texas has a place in the 21st century and beyond.”