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The Arizona Telemedicine Program Blog

The Arizona Rural Health Association (AZRHA) honored two individuals and one community hospital for their outstanding contributions to the health and well-being of rural Arizonans. The honorees were announced on July 25 at the association’s annual conference in Flagstaff.

Lung Cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in American women. But for many women who smoke, that well-documented fact is not enough of an incentive to quit.

They know that when they quit, they are likely to gain a lot of weight. And while they would like to quit, they don’t want to risk the extra pounds that follow.

And it’s not just their perception. Many studies have shown the majority of women who quit smoking gain eight to 10 pounds, on average. And women who quit, then return to smoking, often blame their weight gain for their relapse.

The problem

If you need to see a rheumatologist, chances are you’re going to have to wait—especially if you’re in a rural area. According to a 2013 study by the American College of Rheumatology Committee on Rheumatology Training and Workforce Issues, rheumatologists are in very short supply in the United States—and as the population ages, they are becoming even more in demand.

In addition to treating the more than 50 million Americans with arthritis, rheumatologists treat other diseases, like lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and scleroderma. These specialists not only have completed four years of medical school and a three-year residency, but also have undergone an additional two to three years of training in a rheumatology fellowship.

So how do we in Arizona address this workforce issue without making patients travel long distances to be seen, often after waiting months for an appointment?

Northern Arizona Telemedicine Alliance Tech Talk

“Does anyone know of a USB microphone that can be daisy-chained?” “We held a camera ‘bake-off’ to see which ones perform best.” “We’re having trouble with inbound video calls coming through the firewall.” “How do you manage secure sign-ons for a conference room laptop?” “Does anyone have ideas for power-supply and cord management of a telehealth tablet at a remote site?”

These are the kinds of telehealth-related questions and issues that can take up hours of a technical person’s time when they’re doing all the research themselves. And often, IT people in a health-care setting are wearing a number of hats and can’t devote all their attention to telehealth issues and questions.

That’s why the members of the Northern Arizona Telemedicine Alliance (NATA) decided to hold monthly “Tech Talks” to share information and work together.

Historic event:  Dr. Achyut Bhattacharyya and Dr. Weinstein, in Tucson,  rendering the first telepathology diagnosis for a patient in China, on October 4, 1993. Starting then, telepathology has evolved into a significant industry in China.

Thirty years after the invention of telepathology, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the technology for primary pathology diagnoses.

Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, founding director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program, based at the University of Arizona College of Medicine –Tucson, was chair of pathology at what is now Rush University Medical Center in Chicago in the mid-1980s when he developed his idea of diagnosing surgical pathology slides from a distance.

He has since been recognized as the “father of telepathology.”

In the March 14 edition of the journal Circulation, the American Heart Association published what is described as the first comprehensive scientific statement on the growing use of telemedicine in pediatric cardiology.

“In most cases, the potential advantages of telemedicine in pediatric cardiology are numerous, including improving access to care, improving quality and saving lives,” the heart association stated. “In addition, this appears to be occurring with enhanced patient and practitioner satisfaction and cost-efficient medicine.”

Faculty and colleagues with the Arizona Telemedicine Program, based at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, also point to telemedicine’s progress over the last decade or so.

The care continuum increasingly relies on the skilled nursing facility to extend patient care beyond the acute care facility before the patient is sent home.  The hospitals are under pressure to treat only the most acute conditions and then move the patient to facilities with lower costs of care.  Accordingly, skilled nursing facilities are accepting patients who are frailer and more complicated.  “Between 2005 and 2009, the percentage of Medicare SNF patients with eight or more co-mobidities increased from 74.8 to 86.9 percent..”  And, the “proportion of patients in SNFs categorized as having major or extreme severity of illness increased from about 45 percent in 2005 to 53 percent in 2009.”


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