On Sunday, November 21, 2004, doctors used the new teletrauma connection between the Emergency Room at Southeast Arizona Medical Center in Douglas and the Emergency Department at University Medical Center to save a young child’s life. A bad car crash near Douglas left three persons dead and an 18 month old baby with severe trauma to the head, and multiple fractures. Dr. Rifat Latifi, at the University Medical Center Emergency Department in Tucson, directs the care of a severe trauma patient at the Southeast Arizona Medical Center in Douglas using the new teletrauma system.
The new teletrauma system utilizing the Arizona Telemedicine Program Network was activated. In Tucson, Dr. Rifat Latifi, Associate Director, Telesurgery and International Affairs, and a skilled trauma surgeon, utilized the teletrauma connection to provide direct supervision to the local Douglas physician, Dr. Tanvir, through multiple interventions, including intubations, the delivery of blood products and large amounts of IV fluids. In short, Dr. Latifi was able to be in the Douglas emergency room “virtually” to guide the patient’s treatment. As a result, the baby was stabilized enough to transport to Tucson and placed in the ICU where her condition is stable and she is expected to live. Later in the day, Dr. Latifi sent an email to his colleagues summarizing what had occurred and with great pride concluded, “If we had not had this connection today that child would have died.” Dr. Latifi hopes to expand the teletrauma system network to many other Arizona communities in need of this life-saving capability. In addition to saving lives, the system is expected to save the great costs involved in transporting trauma patients unnecessarily. This first teletrauma system was placed in service through a generous loan from Visual Telecommunications Network, Inc.( ViTel Net).
TUCSON – Sept. 12, 2007– Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) and University Medical Center (UMC) in Tucson announced that three additional rural Arizona hospitals now have real-time access to UMC teletrauma specialists through the Telemedicine for Teletrauma program.
The announcement comes in conjunction with the first anniversary of the Telemedicine for Teletrauma program, which now includes links to five rural Arizona hospitals participating in the program. The Telemedicine for Teletrauma & Critical Care program has helped address the shortage of trauma specialists in rural Arizona in just a year’s time.
Sierra Vista Regional Health Center, Benson Hospital, and Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales join Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee and Southeast Arizona Medical Center (SAMC) in Douglas as the latest additions to the telemedicine for teletrauma network. Copper Queen Hospital went live in March. At SAMC, the program’s first participating hospital, teletrauma consultations have increased 60 percent in the past year.
“It is an incredible feat that, in just 12 month’s time, the teletrauma program has connected the expertise of the University Medical Center to five rural Arizona hospitals,” BCBSAZ President and CEO Richard L. Boals said. “We are proud to help expand the reach of this cutting-edge technology and look forward to seeing it through to other communities.”
The program began in 2006 when it linked trauma specialists at UMC to the medical staff of SAMC, 120 miles away. Through a closed circuit system of videoconferencing and remote monitoring equipment, the specialists help guide care in rural hospitals for injured patients, reducing the amount of time it takes for a patient to receive specialist trauma treatment and, thus, helping to save lives.
“Of the 21 patients treated in the first 13 months of this program, I believe five could have died without the access that teletrauma provides,” Rifat Latifi, MD, FACS, Associate Director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program, said.
With majority funding from BCBSAZ, the program has been able to extend service to hospitals in Bisbee, Benson, Nogales and Sierra Vista. University Medical Center hopes to expand the program to other rural communities in the next year.
UMC, home to the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, reports that this program is just the second teletrauma program of its kind in the world.
“The program saves lives, increases efficiency, and brings an improved level of care to Arizonans in trauma situations,” said Gregory A. Pivirotto, UMC President and Chief Executive Officer. “This is the mission that health care professionals strive for.”
The teletrauma program is part of BCBSAZ’s efforts to provide Arizonans with access to health care in rural areas.