Dr. Shea consults with a remote hospice patient via telemedicine.

I am an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, College of Nursing, a full-time position that includes research in my chosen field of health care systems and informatics, in which I have a PhD.

I also work one day a week as a hospice nurse, providing palliative care, which is focused on comfort and quality of life for patients nearing the end of life.

The “hands-on” care that is the hallmark of palliative care is often perceived to be in opposition to the “hi-tech” world of informatics. My recent experiences have shown that’s not the case.

Dr. Conrad Clemens uses real-time video conferencing and digital stethoscope technology to evaluate a child's asthma.

Each weekday morning at 20 Tucson elementary schools, more than 260 children with asthma report to their school nurse or health aid. Each child is given their own corticosteroid inhaler, inhales the medication, then returns to class.

The children are part of a multi-year, NIH-funded study of an asthma prevention program that is school-based for a number of reasons. The study was launched in the fall of 2014 in 20 schools in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD).

Google Glass

When a woman’s breast cancer metastasized to her knee, University of Arizona orthopaedic surgeons Jordan Smith, MD, and Jason Wild, MD, used Google Glass to turn an exceedingly rare case of patellar reconstruction into an exceptionally teachable moment.

Kimberly Shea, PhD, RN, assistant professor at the UA College of Nursing, will examine the use of real-time video from mini iPads to visualize patients, their environment, and medications. The study will support on-call hospice nurses’ management of patients’ physical and emotional symptoms, while helping reduce caregiver stress and discomfort.

These studies and 11 others have received funding from the Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP), through its competitive Innovation Awards program, launched in December 2013. ATP Innovation Awards provide equipment grants of up to $2,500 to Arizona Health Sciences Center researchers who want to explore the potential of Google Glass, tablets and other mobile technologies in health care.

Telemedicine enables me

I hate telemedicine. Actually, to be more specific, I hate the word, telemedicine. It conjures visions of technology, not care—something futuristic, expensive, something only for people far away.

However, at it’s core, telemedicine is an opportunity to change how we care for each other by bringing people together in time, enabling “reassurance” when we or a loved one is most vulnerable.

Most people think of telemedicine as two people brought together over video for care. In healthcare there are advantages of video over voice. Looking another person in the eye, even via a monitor, provides the blink, the sense for the provider of the patient’s over all health. And for the patient, there is a sense of comfort, that the other person sees me, understands me. However, video alone is not the answer. 

To truly transform care, the technology has evolved, incorporating other forms of communication and workflow requirements. Texting and voice are the methods of choice for providers to talk to other providers and for providers to talk to patients. Workflow—the ability to schedule and to have comfort there will be someone to answer the “call”—is now part of the solution.


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