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mHealth

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?

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.

Telemedicine is advancing how we treat drug and alcohol addiction. That’s good news for the 21 million people in this country with substance use disorders (SUDs). Here’s why, from my perspective as an addiction clinician.

Substance abuse is now a major public health crisis that demands urgent priority and the application of new and innovative solutions that can help close the treatment gap. At a time when drug overdose is the fastest-growing cause of accidental death, and when more people have SUDs than cancer, telehealth treatment for addiction promises to reach a whole swath of people in need of treatment, for whom geography or other factors — stigma can be another one — were once an obstacle to help. It still remains the case, for example, that patients in rural areas of the country have to drive long distances to get to a treatment center or to see an addiction specialist for medication-assisted treatment. Telemedicine is reducing the burden of such barriers.

As the old saying goes, you win some, and you lose some. Well, I’m pretty sure that most of us would rather be on the “win some” side of the equation, especially when it comes to telemedicine grants. The good news is, there are plenty of grant opportunities out there, including the US Department of Health and Human Services, HRSA Telehealth Network Grant Program, the US Department of Agriculture’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant, and opportunities through state agencies and foundations. But how do you position yourself for success? Let’s start with some tips on writing a successful telemedicine grant proposal:

Peg the Gila Monster lost a leg after she walked into a trap. She can no longer survive in the wild so she lives at the Poison Center and is part of its education program.

A University of Arizona College of Pharmacy program is saving Arizonans millions of dollars a year in health-care costs.

It’s the pharmacy college’s Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center – a public service in operation since1955, when it became the second poison center in the country; the first was launched in Chicago, in 1953.

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