Frequently Asked Questions
Regarding Telemedicine in Arizona

1. What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the practice of medicine using a telecommunications system to provide clinical services at a geographically separate site. Service can be delivered in “real time” using interactive video conferencing, or through “store and forward” which relies on the transmission of images and data for review immediately or at later time.

2. What is the Arizona Telemedicine Program?

The Arizona Telemedicine Program is a statewide program intended to increase access to healthcare to all residents in Arizona using telemedicine technologies. The Program’s telecommunications network spans the entire state and is linked to other telecommunications networks in Arizona. The Arizona Telemedicine Program also delivers continuing educational programming to healthcare providers on a regular basis, and provides the telecommunications link for administrative meetings.

3. How can I join the Arizona Telemedicine Program, and what are the benefits?

The Arizona Telemedicine Program is open to all healthcare-related organizations in Arizona. There is a modest membership fee that is based on services desired. The Arizona Telemedicine Program can assist healthcare enterprises in assessing their needs and determine what services would most benefit the organization. The benefits of the program are numerous. For a complete overview of benefits see Arizona Telemedicine Program Network Services. Briefly, they include:

  • Assistance to interested organizations in conducting a needs assessment for their site.
  • The option to contract for a full range of services from consulting only, to a turnkey solution; recharges are only for those services desired. Cost estimates and a workplan are provided to every interested organization.
  • Members of the Arizona Telemedicine Program receive access to a variety of continuing education programming and associated credits for healthcare providers.
  • Arizona Telemedicine Program network staff continuously monitor network operations and troubleshoot and resolve any network problems.
  • Members of the Arizona Telemedicine Program receive a free 2-day formal training at its training center. The training covers a broad range of telemedicine topics including, but not limited to, business and reimbursement, clinical protocols, technical operations, and legal/regulatory issues. In addition, there is follow upon-site training.
  • Rural members receive assistance with filing federal Universal Service Program forms to reduce telecommunications costs to those areas.

4. Are there financial benefits of joining the Arizona Telemedicine Program?

There are potentially a number of financial benefits in joining the Arizona Telemedicine Program. These include:

  • Critical access hospitals can amortize the costs of startup and continuing telemedicine on their cost report for reimbursement.
  • Telecommunications costs can be reduced because the Arizona Telemedicine Program is a volume dealer and rural healthcare organizations can benefit the federal Universal Service Fund program, which reduces telecommunications costs further.
  • For virtually all third party payers in Arizona, healthcare providers can bill for almost all telemedicine services at the same rates as for in-person services. Medicare is the most restrictive payer, but does reimburse for a limited number of real time telemedicine services. Healthcare facilities can also bill a modest facility fee.
  • Valuable transport and travel time can be saved if patients or providers do not have to travel to receive or provide healthcare services.
  • There is an opportunity for an organization, with excess capacity to increase their market share.
  • ATP staff can recommend which types of telemedicine equipment and peripheral devices used in the delivery of telemedicine have been shown to be more effective than others, and which are compatible with that used in the Arizona Telemedicine Program.

5. What are my responsibilities as an Arizona Telemedicine Program member?

Members of the Arizona Telemedicine Program are responsible for providing a technical coordinator, who will attend the free training session. This individual should understand how to work the telemedicine equipment, assist participants in their use of the equipment, and distribute broadcast program notifications to members of their organization. Members are also responsible for signing their contract, and abiding by the contract provisions, including paying membership dues on a timely basis. In addition, member sites are also expected to designate a medical director for telemedicine as one of their responsibilities for network membership.

6. Can I implement telemedicine without affiliation with the Arizona Telemedicine Program?

Yes. It is possible for any health care facility to assume its own responsibility for arranging for the installation of telecommunication lines and telemedicine equipment without affiliation with the Arizona Telemedicine Program. Negotiations between medical providers can occur among collaborating sites for the provision of telemedical care without being connected to the Arizona Telemedicine network.

7. A frequently asked question from rural sites- how can we get teleradiology?

The fastest and most efficient means of transmitting radiology data is with digitalized equipment. This requires high-speed telecommunication lines and digitized radiology equipment systems. Start-up costs covering telecommunications lines and digital teleradiology equipment can be $ 70,000 to $ 100,000. Regular phone lines can also be used to transmit radiology data, but this process is extremely slow and would require an inordinate amount of staff time to transmit the data. Interested rural sites need to contact their telecommunications company to arrange for the installation of high-speed lines, a process that can take 6 months to 1 year, depending on location and the telecommunications company. Online searches can be conducted for information on potential teleradiology equipment vendors.