Community of Practice for Telehealth at the Library
Even before the pandemic, Pottsboro Library in Texas had begun to focus more on health, through their community garden, and programming like cooking classes for families on a SNAP budget. But when director Dianne Connery witnessed the added challenges of COVID-19 on her community’s access to healthcare, including the technologies and skills needed to confidently access health information online, she wanted to do more to bridge the digital health gap. She applied for, and received, an outreach grant from the Network of the National Library of Medicine’s South Central Region as part of a national pilot program, to connect rural residents with healthcare providers through public libraries. With the funding, Pottsboro Library launched a telehealth program in January of 2021, in collaboration with the Network of National Library of Medicine – South Central Region, and the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
The library converted a former storage room into a private telehealth space, with the needed technology, allowing participants to connect with University of North Texas Health Science Center clinicians online (learn more about the program in this short video promo). In a COVID-19 world, avoiding in-person visits not only adheres to self-quarantine and social distancing guidelines, but also lightens hospital and physician loads to focus on patients with the most acute sickness and symptoms.
New Community of Practice for Libraries
When Connery tried to gather information last spring about telehealth programs in libraries, she wasn’t able to find many examples. Since then, she’s talked to a few other libraries launching programs, and many more that are interested in learning from those paving the way. She wanted to share what she had learned, and to create a library telehealth community of practice for other libraries to share and learn from each other. And when Dianne Connery sees a need, she looks for a way!
The new Pottsboro Library - Telehealth Community of Practice includes articles, resources, webinars, podcasts, and a discussion board to share, collect, manage, and organize a body of knowledge from which community members can draw. With tremendous interest nationwide, from healthcare providers, libraries and other community agencies, “the purpose of this Community of Practice (CoP) is to establish a support network to create opportunities for learning, sharing knowledge and resources, and reducing duplication of work for those creating and/or managing telehealth services at a library or other non-profit organization.”
Connery invites interested libraries to join the growing telehealth CoP, to learn and share how libraries can include telehealth options in their services, and to improve access for members of their community to “connect with their healthcare providers no matter where they are, to get the kind of information they need to live healthy lives.”