When pandemic hit, HSC and rural library joined forces to protect a community
By Katie Shanklin
From limited resources to lack of internet access, living in rural areas can be challenging. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, HSC and one rural North Texas community’s public library teamed up to help keep residents healthy.
According to the CDC, about 46 million Americans live in rural areas, experiencing long-standing systemic health and social inequities. For instance, rural Americans tend to have increased risks including high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity as well as less access to health care making these communities more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Like several other rural areas, Pottsboro, a town 90 miles north of Dallas, Texas with a population of 2,160, faced unique obstacles during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fortunately, during this unprecedented situation Pottsboro’s librarian, Dianne Connery, stepped up to help her community.
“Our facility never closed during the pandemic,” Connery said. “Our library isn’t your average library. We provide resources that our residents rely on especially during times of crisis.”
Throughout the pandemic, the Pottsboro Library provided Wi-Fi for students to continue their schoolwork online, operated a community garden, and a library of things for residents to check out household items they might need.
“One thing I did notice that we were missing in our community was proper health care,” she said.“We worked with Dianne to make sure the ventilation, lighting and technology was up to date and infection control measures were in place.”
Pottsboro Area Library received a $20,000 COVID-19 outreach grant from the Network of the National Library of Medicine’s South-Central Region to implement programs to help navigate the pandemic.
HSC is working to eliminate health disparities
With focus, determination and great effort we can eliminate health disparities to help every Texan.
With the funding, Pottsboro Library partnered with HSC in January 2021 to establish a dedicated telemedicine room within the library.
“We wanted to make sure all patients receive the best care while providing them with a safe and welcoming experience,” said John Sims, Director of SaferCare Texas, the patient safety division at HSC. “We worked with Dianne to make sure the ventilation, lighting, and technology was up to date and met regulation codes.”
How it works: community members call to make an appointment directly with a HSC Health provider, complete their pre-visit check online or in person prior to their virtual visit, and go to the library for their virtual health care appointment. It occurs in a private room with an outside entrance and exit. Library staff are close by to help patients if needed, but the entire appointment is confidential.
“Our health care providers can help manage conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, conduct wellness checkups, and help remedy allergies, sinus infections and other illnesses and minor injuries,” said Jessica Rangel, Senior Vice President of Clinical Innovation at HSC.
Telemedicine has increased substantially throughout the pandemic and has modernized the health care industry. It has proven to be a valuable way to reach patients and improve outcomes.
“Our partnership with Pottsboro Library has been a great example of how to reach community members where they are at,” Rangel said. “We have had several libraries around the United States reach out to ask us how we started this partnership, and how they can implement something similar. We look forward to continuing our partnership and providing solutions to improve health care access for all.”
Through this partnership, HSC is breaking down barriers and helping to eliminate health disparities. HSC cannot do our work without the help of our community, please donate to rural medicine and help improve health care access for everyone.