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Yuma Regional Medical Center in Southwestern Arizona has been named one of the nation’s “Most Wired” hospitals – an award given annually by the American Hospital Association’s Health Forum.

It’s the second consecutive year the Yuma hospital has won the award.

“It is very, very satisfying to know that we have reached that milestone,” said Fred Peet, Yuma Regional’s chief information officer. “But we still recognize that there is always room for improvement, and we continue to look for opportunities to provide technology to assist in the care of our patients, so we can make their experience that much more enjoyable.”

Lynn Gerald is nationally recognized for her research on childhood asthma.

Like many first-time users of new technology, clinicians taking part in an NIH-funded study to reduce asthma morbidity in elementary school children had some doubts.

But after several months of monitoring children from a distance, using 3M Littman Bluetooth stethoscopes, they were nearly 100 percent in favor of the new technology.

Imagine a mother who is juggling two children under the age of five and a full-time hourly wage job.  When her child contracts pink eye or a worsening cold or a sinus infection or asthma, she is forced to choose between giving up wages to see the primary care physician or going to the emergency department that is unable to turn her away, even if she cannot pay, after work hours.  Many choose the latter option but it is costly and risks additional illness. While retail clinics have closed some of the gap in primary care, telehealth visits have the potential to close even more of the gap.  Unfortunately, these visits are rarely covered by private payers and are rarely covered by public payers like Medicare and Medicaid.  So, unless the mother can afford $40-55, the telehealth visit, while saving time, will not be utilized.

Photo credit: Angel Holtrust

Telehealth has been a big buzz word in the healthcare industry over the past couple years. A recent survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) found that 78% of physicians believe telemedicine improves access to care. Another report found 75% of surveyed patients said they would be interested in doing a telemedicine visit in lieu of an in-person medical visit.

There’s clearly momentum behind telehealth. But what many physicians may wonder is - is telemedicine worth it? How will it directly help my practice? Is it worth the initial time and investment?

In Dr. Ricky Ochoa’s view, the Affordable Care Act has had a significant impact in Arizona’s Yuma County. With an unemployment rate nearly four times that of the state – 22 percent versus 6 percent – and high rates of diabetes and heart disease, Yuma County, in southwestern Arizona, faces a critical need for access to health care.

“The point of the Affordable Care Act is to increase access to quality medical care for patients and lower costs,” said Dr. Ochoa, a 2002 graduate of the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, and medical director of Yuma Regional Medical Center’s Family Medicine Center. 


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