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The Arizona Telemedicine Program Blog

Cabo Verde Telemedicine Network

Rifat Latifi, MD, general and trauma surgeon, professor of surgery at the UA and associate director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program, put all that on hold four years ago to direct the only Level One trauma program in Qatar – and to develop new health-care systems in the war-torn part of the world where he was born and grew up.

The Arizona Telemedicine Program was established in 1996 with eight clinical sites around the state. Now, nearly 20 years later, the ATP has expanded to 160 sites.

As the numbers imply, this is a program whose impact has far exceeded expectations. In fact, on a map recently published by the University of Arizona, showing sites around the state where the UA has a presence, the ATP far outnumbers other programs.

Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, co-founder and director of ATP, points directly to the visionary folks – legislators, physicians, agency officials, hospital and insurance executives and others – who have committed their time and talent to the Arizona Telemedicine Council (ATC).

Telemedicine doctor

One of the largest exhibitors at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show is UnitedHealthcare. The nation’s giant health insurer has had a 3,000 square-foot booth at the show each year for the last four. But of course, they’re not there to show off their latest tele-gadget.

They are there to promote the benefits of telemedicine, telehealth and other tele-technologies that are closing the gap in access to health care.

telemedicine service

“What was the single most important development in telemedicine, telehealth and/or teleradiology in 2014?”

That question was just posed by a colleague in an email to several telemedicine industry leaders.

Phyllis Webster, Telemedicine Case Coordinator for ATP

Graduate school or full-time job?

That was the question Phyllis Webster was pondering after getting her bachelor’s degree in cultural and biological anthropology from the University of Arizona. In late 1996, she opted for full-time job, as a research specialist with the newly formed Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP).

Patients in waiting room

Greg Hales used to really dislike going to the doctor.

“I didn’t dislike the doctor,” he says. “I just really disliked having to listen to whatever terrible news or reality show was blaring from the TV in the waiting room. It was so unpleasant. Then one day I thought, ‘Why don’t I just do something about this?’ That was when I set about creating a series of waiting room video loops, which play in North Country waiting rooms across the system."

Ebola patient care through telemedicine

The boy's eyes are captivated by the voice of the woman in the white starched coat. She seems to be speaking directly to them from the television screen. His mother's face relaxes for the first time in weeks as she holds him and repeats in a soft voice as if to convince herself, "The quarantine is over."

***

Although not a current reality, medicine has entered the digital age, and this scene may be tomorrow's reality.

Telecommunication technologies impact almost all medical specialties with tools ranging from "full-service" telemedicine systems that allow a near-complete physical exam to be conducted at a distance, to tele-home health units, to self-monitoring devices partnered with mobile technologies.

Digital tools may serve as critical missing puzzle pieces towards the primary goal of Ebola preparedness efforts: control of disease transmission. 

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