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The Arizona Telemedicine Program Blog

Patients, physicians and hospital staff alike can agree that the waiting room is not typically a positive experience for patients. According to a survey conducted by the design and development firm Sequence, 85 percent of patients reported that they wait anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes past their scheduled appointment times until they see their physicians. Patients consider this to be valuable time that's put to waste and in many cases, their levels of anxiety exacerbate.

While new organizational methods and procedural changes can help get the waiting room in great shape, telemedicine has proved it can help healthcare organizations diminish the long waits and frustrations that patients experience. Here's how telemedicine can improve the reputation of the waiting room:

An aging and expanding population and a nationwide shortage of practicing physicians is worsening, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), and other healthcare experts. The AAMC reported in April that the shortage will amount to up to 120,000 physicians by 2030, as the number of new physicians fails to keep pace with the nation’s growing healthcare demands.

Analysts predict that by 2024, healthcare spending will comprise 20 percent of the U.S. economy.

Some experts forecast a growing pool of available nurse practitioners, who can help fulfill the nation’s healthcare needs by providing accessible, cost-effective care for millions of citizens.

In the meantime, healthcare provider organizations are evaluating technology that could help to fill the physician shortage.

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a massive hub of data found in physical devices. From phones to vehicles to smart appliances, items network together to create a large pool of data for anyone to draw information from. A lot of companies find the IoT to be handy for customer feedback and getting ahead of market trends.

Meanwhile, telemedicine involves going to a doctor's appointment remotely — any physician who uses telecommunications to diagnose and treat patients is practicing with telemedicine. Telemedicine is a considerable help in locations where few doctors or specialists are available, and these virtual appointments are just as rewarding as going to a doctor in person. As the healthcare industry becomes more technology-driven, telemedicine is banding together with the IoT to improve both services.

Opioid addiction – both prescription and non-prescription – has reached crisis levels in the United States. The U.S. population represents just 5 percent of the global population, yet we consume 80 percent of the world’s opioids. This has led to tens of thousands of overdose deaths each year, and costs the economy $78.5 billion each year. The problem has worsened in recent years, and has been declared a national emergency.

In addition, doses of over-the-counter pain relievers are sold in the tens of billions each year. Tackling this problem is no easy feat. With millions of people misusing painkillers or turning to illegal forms of opioids like heroin to fulfill the needs of their addiction, creative, easily-accessible treatment options are needed to help people get back on their feet and regain control of their lives. Getting help in the current healthcare system can be difficult, as there are several hurdles patients and doctors need to clear in order to get effective treatment. As a result, many attempts at treating people with opioid addictions fail.

One possible solution, according to a number of medical experts, is leveraging the power of telemedicine. But how can remote care help addicts recover? And is it an effective solution to the opioid crisis?

The Fourth of July is Independence Day for the United States of America.  Independence is about individual freedoms and liberties and we celebrate these annually on the 4th of July.  In healthcare, telemedicine, telehealth, and mobile health (mHealth) technologies can help us maintain or improve our health more independently by enabling us to track our health, and access and connect with expert care from where we are. For example:

If you’re sick and have no way to get to a doctor in person, telemedicine gives you the freedom to see a doctor anywhere and anytime from a smartphone, tablet or computer with Internet access.

If you have a chronic health condition that can be monitored remotely, remote patient monitoring, a form of telehealth, gives you the freedom to spend more quality time at home and less time on the road and in your doctor’s waiting room.

Telehealth

ICT (Information and communication technology) has transformed the way we see the world by revolutionizing the medical industry and changing the modes of both medical practice and medical service delivery. According to the Center for Connected Health Policy, “Telehealth is a collection of means or methods for enhancing health care, public health, and health education delivery and support using telecommunications technologies. Telehealth encompasses a broad variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services.”1    Telehealth is widely used to support patients with chronic health conditions. Telehealth has real benefits for both patients and clinicians; it can help patients to better manage and understand long-term health conditions and it can help clinicians to track their patients’ health statuses and to intervene in a timely manner when potentially negative trends or abnormal measurements are observed.

Left, MGH “White Building” housing the original telemedicine hub. Middle, Crichton’s book describing his Harvard Medical School student telemedicine experience. Right, Dr. Weinstein in Boston, recently celebrating the 50th Anniversary of his first telepathology case (then called “Television Microscopy”) seen with David N. Louis, MD, Benjamin Castleman Professor of Pathology, HMS and current MGH Pathologist-in-Chief (left), in the MGH Pathology Department Library, on April 27, 2018.

Although the education of medical and nursing students regarding telemedicine has lagged behind the implementation of telemedicine services, such as telestroke and telepsychiatry, that’s about to change.

A recent survey by the Association of American Medical Colleges documented a sharp increase in the number of medical schools offering telemedicine experiences to their students. Furthermore, medical schools are incorporating telemedicine training facilities in their state-of-the-art education buildings.  The University of Arizona’s College of Medicine -- Tucson's new Health Sciences Innovation Building, scheduled to open in August, will include an “e-Classroom of the Future," designed by Ronald S. Weinstein, M.D., a pioneer in telemedicine and telepathology, a subspecialty of telemedicine.  Dr. Weinstein is the founding director of the statewide Arizona Telemedicine Program, established by the Arizona Legislature in 1996, and headquartered at the University of Arizona College of Medicine --Tucson.


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