Members of the Utah coalition with Dr. Weinstein and some of the ATP Training staff after their day of training.

It’s at least a 12-hour drive from Salt Lake City, Utah, to the Arizona-Mexico border city of Nogales. But for community health workers in both of those cities, the distance has become much shorter, thanks in large part to the Arizona Telemedicine Program.

Salt Lake City is home to the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute – a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center – as well as the recently formed Community Health Worker Coalition of Utah, a project of the Utah Department of Health. The coalition is made up of about 30 organizations, including Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Panel discussion (l to r) Gigi Sorenson, Dr. Bart Demaerschalk, Dr. Sara Gibson, Dr. Robert Groves, Dr. Jeff Lisse, with Dr. Ronald Weinstein moderating the session.

Did you know that telestroke isn’t solely about determining whether a patient is having an ischemic stroke and needs a clot-busting drug? Or that telepsychiatrists feel that establishing a doctor-patient relationship via telemedicine (never meeting their patients in person) works well? Or that Arizona law requires informed consent before a patient can receive healthcare services through telemedicine?

These are just a few things participants learned at the daylong “Arizona Telemedicine Course: Applications, Model Programs, and Secrets for Success,” held October 9, 2015 at Flagstaff Medical Center.

Doctors watching distance learning presentation

The Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP) is known for improving health care in rural communities, saving lives and lowering costs. It’s also known as a leader in distance learning and continuing education programs, developed to meet the needs of patients, physicians and other health professionals.

Educational events such as medical grand rounds are attended “virtually” by physicians, nurses, dentists, therapists, emergency personnel, and other health professionals located throughout Arizona, via videoconferencing or live web streaming. Events offering continuing medical education (CME) credit for physicians and continuing education (CE) credit for nurses are both available. Thirty percent of participants who have attended virtually have received continuing education credits totaling more than 13,000 credit hours since 2000.

Arizona Telemedicine Program's T-Health Institute

Arizona Telemedicine Program's T-Health Institute opened in 2003 on the University of Arizona's Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. Its mission: to offer telemedicine and telehealth training, and to serve as a prototype e-classroom of the future.

The Institute is fulfilling its mission. More than 20 different organizations have used the amphitheater over the past 12 months, and not all are about medicine and health care.

ATP Telemedicine training

Although requirements vary for each health profession, in order to maintain licensure, most require some sort of continuing education (CE) to demonstrate competency and insure quality of care. 

Health professionals typically need to take time away from work and personal obligations to obtain continuing education credits, which means meeting these requirements can be fraught with challenging barriers. This is especially true for those practicing medicine in rural communities where opportunities can be very limited. Finding the time to attend educational events is problematic and is compounded by adding more time and expense for traveling to such events, particularly in a rural setting where backup support can be inadequate. 

Since the University of Arizona Medical Center (UAMC) is a teaching hospital, the Arizona Telemedicine Program is in an exceptionally unique position to support health professionals at telemedicine member sites achieve their objectives. The program provides a wide variety of educational opportunities via the content provided to students pursuing a career in health care. 


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