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The Arizona Telemedicine Program Blog

As the anniversary of our nation’s Declaration of Independence approaches, I’ve been thinking about a different kind of independence: The growing freedom from constraints on telehealth coverage.

Several recent and upcoming changes in telehealth policy are converging – nationally and here in Arizona – to reduce limitations on coverage.

In my previous blog on March 26, 2019, I discussed Phase One of “Using Simulation Labs to Teach Future Telehealth Providers at Universidad Mayor (UM) in Chile, South America.” In that blog, I described the expansive rurality of Chile and the simulation lab that is used for educating the health sciences students in Santiago. In this Phase two blog, I will discuss the second half of my visit that demonstrated that Chile has the need, and UM has the equipment available, to educate and train healthcare students about using telehealth.

When rural hospitals want to set up specialty services for their patients, say telestroke or tele-ICU, how do they go about finding a remote service provider? Online searches yield a lot of ads, but how do you sift through that information to find an appropriate partner?

That is why the Arizona Telemedicine Program established the national, online Telemedicine & Telehealth Service Provider Directory (SPD) – to provide a resource for decision-makers from organizations like hospitals, clinics, private practices, schools, correctional institutions, and others. The SPD makes it easy for you to find the tele-services you need. The focus is on companies that provide clinical services for interacting with patients from a distance—not on platforms, apps, technology, telecom, consultants or back-office services.

In May 2017, the University of Arizona College of Nursing launched a telehealth training program for students seeking advanced degrees as doctors of nursing practice. 

The "Using 21st Century Technology for NP Student-Patient Interview and Interprofessional Care Coordination" project, initially funded with a Graduate Nursing Education Grant of $26,000 from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was developed by UA nursing professors Rene Love, PhD, DNP; Jane Carrington, PhD, RN. It was, and apparently still is, the first and only telehealth education program designed for student nurses pursuing doctor of nursing practice degrees, despite the fact that more than half of U.S. hospitals have telemedicine programs, and their numbers continue to grow. 

Lacie Ampadu presenting from the THealth Institute in Phoenix, and Alyssa Padilla, MPH (insert) facilitating the webinar from ATP  in Tucscon.

Over the last eight years, the Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP) and its subsidiary, the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center (SWTRC) have generated and hosted 100 webinars, covering a wide range of current health topics presented by subject matter experts that have reached thousands of interested viewers. 

We produced our 100th webinar, "How to Get the 'Tele' in Telegenetics," on May 2nd, one week ago today.

Telemedicine, which enables health professionals to provide treatment to patients remotely, is especially useful in rural areas, where people are distanced from healthcare facilities. It can also play a considerable role during natural disasters when professionals cannot reach affected areas or must operate outside of traditional medical settings.

But because of the nature of the platform — and the technology used — telemedicine is susceptible to outside attacks, particularly cyberattacks. Communication and digital exchanges are often done via the open internet. A patient will have a live video chat with a health professional via a mobile app, for instance. That feed and any data from the exchange is vulnerable to snooping or outright theft, especially if one of the parties is using an unsecured network connection.

Living with a mental illness can be isolating and difficult. The long-standing stigma connected with mental illness, along with limited treatment accessibility, patients’ fear of the potential repercussions of family, friends, and employers finding out about their condition, have kept many individuals from seeking the support they need. Fortunately, these trends are starting to shift in a more positive direction.

Although some stigma and shame still surround such illnesses as depression, anxiety, OCD, and bipolar disorder, people are beginning to feel more comfortable about sharing their own struggles and finding support from others online. Telehealth and an interconnected world are coming together to end stigma, and help people manage their mental health in a more effective way.

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