The Arizona Telemedicine Program Blog

Before the pandemic, Amy Hu, MD, a psychiatrist with Banner Health and a UArizona College of Medicine Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, had not utilized telemedicine to see her patients. She says she viewed it as more of a niche application for other healthcare providers.

“I did have some misconceptions about what telehealth was like. I thought that patients may not feel as engaged or connected, or that it might feel a little unnatural compared to meeting in-person.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a steady rise in telehealth use. By way of example; March 2020 saw telehealth visits increase by 154% compared to March 2019!

Dr. Tamsen Bassford is a physician who treats neurotypical patients, as well as patients with disabilities,  Photo Courtesy: University of Arizona College of Medicine Tucson , Family & Community Medicine

People living with disabilities face poorer overall health outcomes than their peers without disabilities. Could accessible telehealth help?

Dr. Tamsen Bassford, associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and a member of the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities, says many of her patients were severely impacted during times of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, when shutdowns and social distancing were in place.

“Many of my patients with intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD) were restricted; they couldn’t go to work or go to their daytime activities – they were at home. They didn’t have access to things that made their days meaningful. Many patients had less access than neurotypical people have to online resources,” Dr. Bassford said.

My upbringing 

I grew up in a Vietnamese refugee community in midtown Tucson. Throughout grade school, I eagerly watched as families slowly made their way out of the complex as if it were a graduation to the next social rung. After a decade of factory work, often managing three jobs, my mother saved enough for our little family to graduate, too. The dedication and perseverance I witnessed in her inspired me to become the first in my family to graduate from college.

The pandemic has created a lot of new realities throughout the world, telemedicine being one of them. As someone with thyroid disease and other ailments, I have to get regular check-ups (sometimes every month when it’s really flaring up). With my health issues, I see multiple different doctors (primary, cardiologist, endocrinologist, allergist), and it’s often very hard for me to find time to fit them all in to my already jam-packed schedule. Telemedicine has been such a welcome adaption for me, as it has truly taken a lot of the usual “appointment” stress, like commute time, completely out of the equation.

The Society for Advancing Research and Education in Connected Health (SEARCH) held its 7th annual meeting “The National Telehealth Research Symposium” November 8 – 10 of this year. Although the conference was virtual the science was 100% real and better than ever. Like any good conference, this one was enhanced by the collaborating organizations: SPROUT Supporting Pediatric Research on Outcomes and Utilization of Telehealth; MUSC Medical University of South Carolina National Telehealth Center of Excellence; UAMS IDHI University of Arkansas Institute for Digital Health & Innovation; NCTRC National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers; UMMC University of Mississippi Medical Center National Telehealth Center of Excellence; and UAMS TRI University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Translational Research Institute. There were over 120 presenters at the meeting with a nice mix of prior attendees and those who were first-timers.

Have you taken a moment recently to “Stop and Smell the Roses”?   This simple but powerful saying reminds us to make time in our busy schedules to enjoy life and give thanks.  Over the past 25 years, the Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP) has had the privilege of serving Arizona by providing telemedicine education, training, and technology services.  I’ve had the honor of being part of the ATP’s team for 23 of those years.   ATP is thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with innovative, compassionate, dedicated healthcare professionals and organizations throughout Arizona.  Below are some thoughts our colleagues have shared about what they are thankful for.  We do hope you find these reflections uplifting and inspiring and that you too can take the time to stop, breathe and give thanks.  From all of us at ATP, Happy Thanksgiving!

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