The Arizona Telemedicine Program Blog

Image of telemedicine for pets in action

From Dr. Steven Hansen’s Arizona Humane Society office, you may have heard a sigh of relief when Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signed Senate Bill 1053 into law on May 9. Beginning in August, veterinarians licensed in the state will legally be able to provide veterinary care through telemedicine, a care alternative many have become accustomed to on the human side of healthcare.

The overwhelmingly positive response to our recent webinar, Navigating Telehealth Legislative and Policy Changes Beyond the Public Health Emergency, resulted in many questions left in chat we were unable to address. Below, I present those questions, with answers I hope get to the heart of current areas we recognize as important areas for the future of virtual care in Arizona, the Southwest and throughout the country.

Alison Hughes

Looking back at Alison Hughes’ career, it’s hard not to be in awe over the roads she’s traveled with civil rights and social justice leading almost every turn that eventually led her to Tucson in 1970.

“It’s a life,” Hughes said, shrugging off the compliment with a smile in her light Scottish accent.

That life, however, took Hughes from her native Scotland to study in the United States at age 19. In the early ’60s, she worked at the United States Commission on Civil Rights, and participated in the 1963 Civil Rights March in D.C. led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

To almost anyone passing by the latest star at Benson Hospital, the room looks like a typical workout spot with a treadmill, an exercise bike, and a set of free weights, but to 12 patients living near this rural community hospital, it represents saving time and critical steps needed to making their cardiac health a priority.

During a recent tour, Velma Cooper, Director of Nursing, excitedly pointed out construction taking place—a soon-to-be new entrance, check-in area, administrative offices and more, which will hopefully be done by the end of March. Past the hospital’s new radiology department and further past the ER, sits the new cardiac telemedicine rehabilitation room.

As Dr. Eladio Pereira recalls the challenges he and other medical professionals experienced during Covid, an easy broad smile spreads across his face thinking about his friend the late Dr. Ron Weinstein and the crew at the Arizona Telemedicine Program.

Pereira, chief medical officer at the Mariposa Community Health Center that serves the U.S.-Mexico border communities of Santa Cruz County in Southern Arizona, said Mariposa’s Nogales clinic was one of ATP’s first telemedicine projects outside Tucson in 1997.

“We were learning together. They wanted us to participate and were extremely generous with us,” Pereira said.

Five Key Telehealth Takeaways from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023  

On Thursday, December 29, President Biden signed into law H.R. 2716, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) for Fiscal Year 2023. This legislation provides more than $1.7 trillion to fund various aspects of the federal government, including a 2-year extension of the major telehealth waivers that were initiated during the federal public health emergency (PHE). 

The full text of the legislation, is available here. The most pertinent section of the new law that relates to telehealth is under:

A young version of the author at the view box looking at chest “films” (chest radiographs), circa 1975.

In the Beginning: Going from Analog to Digital

I am now a retired radiologist. I actively practiced radiology from 1971 at the start of my residency until 2014 when I retired as a professor of medical imaging (radiology). A lot certainly changed during that time. When I first started my radiology career, there was no CT or MRI, and ultrasound was very primitive with no real-time imaging. Nuclear medicine did not offer the wide range of studies now available. There was no PET scanning. In fact, radiologists read films on view boxes, actual films, anywhere from 8 x 10 inches to 14 x 17 inches in size.

The standard x-ray equipment was similar today with the same images and routines being used for everyday chest, abdominal, spine, skull, and bone radiographs. The films were enclosed in a metal cassette, exposed, and then taken out of the cassette in a darkroom and placed into a developing machine coming out the other end of the machine developed and dried, ready for viewing on a view box. The films for an individual patient were placed in a large envelope, the film jacket, which was stored in the departmental film library, a large complex of rooms with multiple shelves for holding thousands of film jackets.


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