The Arizona Telemedicine Program Blog

The Arizona Telecommunications and Information Council (ATIC) has had an important and impactful vision for over 35 years -that all Arizona citizens, businesses, schools, organizations, and communities have access to high-capacity Internet and the tools, technologies, and skills to participate effectively in the networked world.

We read with interest the blog by Paul Sun on June 23, 2022. The blog’s value in acknowledging the upcoming importance of artificial intelligence (AI) in telehealth is high, however, the title and further application to only physicians, requires further thought.

As more and more people turn to telehealth services for care, it is becoming increasingly important for physicians and the entire healthcare industry to have access to technology that can help improve patient care. Luckily, artificial intelligence (AI) is quickly emerging as a powerful tool that can do just that.

Before the pandemic, Amy Hu, MD, a psychiatrist with Banner Health and a UArizona College of Medicine Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, had not utilized telemedicine to see her patients. She says she viewed it as more of a niche application for other healthcare providers.

“I did have some misconceptions about what telehealth was like. I thought that patients may not feel as engaged or connected, or that it might feel a little unnatural compared to meeting in-person.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a steady rise in telehealth use. By way of example; March 2020 saw telehealth visits increase by 154% compared to March 2019!

Dr. Tamsen Bassford is a physician who treats neurotypical patients, as well as patients with disabilities,  Photo Courtesy: University of Arizona College of Medicine Tucson , Family & Community Medicine

People living with disabilities face poorer overall health outcomes than their peers without disabilities. Could accessible telehealth help?

Dr. Tamsen Bassford, associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and a member of the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities, says many of her patients were severely impacted during times of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, when shutdowns and social distancing were in place.

“Many of my patients with intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD) were restricted; they couldn’t go to work or go to their daytime activities – they were at home. They didn’t have access to things that made their days meaningful. Many patients had less access than neurotypical people have to online resources,” Dr. Bassford said.

My upbringing 

I grew up in a Vietnamese refugee community in midtown Tucson. Throughout grade school, I eagerly watched as families slowly made their way out of the complex as if it were a graduation to the next social rung. After a decade of factory work, often managing three jobs, my mother saved enough for our little family to graduate, too. The dedication and perseverance I witnessed in her inspired me to become the first in my family to graduate from college.

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