COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KXAN) — Following a shift toward telehealth care during the pandemic, Texas A&M University announced the creation of a new Telehealth Institute with the goal of tackling “disparities in access to high-quality health care.”

The university’s board of regents has committed $15 million over five years to fund the new institute.

Texas A&M School of Medicine and the School of Education and Human Development Clinical Associate Professor Dr. Carly McCord has been named executive director of the institute.

“The virtual portion gets care to people when and where they need it, that could be in their homes, in their cars… in schools and jails,” McCord said. “It can go anywhere and overcome barriers that create disparities like transportation barriers, (and) time barriers. All of those can be overcome using telehealth.”

The institute aims to take a three-pronged approach bringing together research, clinical, and educational components.

McCord said while they all have unique elements, they also overlap.

The research arm will focus on research projects and developing models of care. That will include investigating how effectively they reduce disparities and barriers to healthcare.

The clinical care team uses licensed healthcare providers to work directly with patients. This builds off the university’s Telebehavioral Care Program that’s been in place since 2009.

Additionally, the educational component will take the curriculum developed at A&M and bring that resources to providers that haven’t had access to telehealth training.

A survey during the pandemic showed in a two-year period from 2019-2021, telemedicine grew in popularity significantly.

It found 51% reported a willingness to use it in 2019, but that rose to 62% by 2021.

The increase was even more pronounced among Black adults and adults without a high school education.

“The acceptability of telehealth has really skyrocketed and Texas has done a great job supporting legislation and helping telehealth overcome barriers and payment parity and payment options to keep telehealth growing and thriving here in our state,” McCord said.

McCord said the institute has contracts with local governments and healthcare organizations to become part of their workforce remotely for short periods of time to offer that specialty care.

The institute is also launching a care program where Texans will be able to use services as Texas A&M Health patients.

“We hope that our research and our education course also benefit the rest of Texas, that we’re doing policy-relevant research, and will continue to drive the field of telemedicine and telehealth forward,” she said.