The Arizona Telemedicine Program Blog

Finding a telemedicine partner

Need a doctor? Just use your tablet to see one via video—your insurance company may even pay for it. Or go to your nearest pharmacy—or maybe a kiosk at your workplace—for a telemedicine visit. This new service model is much more convenient, faster and cheaper than heading to an emergency department or urgent care center, and it’s growing by leaps and bounds.

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.

Doctor speaking with a pregnant patient through a virtual visit on a tablet

As a physician with over 20 years practicing medicine, I've always been an advocate of strong doctor-patient relationships. The strength of that relationship is the core of high-quality patient care.

Contrary to what some physicians think, I believe telemedicine actually has the power to enhance and harness that relationship — if we use it in the right way. Some physicians argue that virtual care can't equate to an in-office visit. But anyone in the know about telemedicine understands why that argument just doesn't hold up. In fact, virtual visits can be a great way to build trust with patients and maintain continuity of care (by keeping patients in your practice and competing with retail health, for instance).

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.

Skilled nursing facility

Telemedicine is a relatively new way to bring medical examinations, diagnosis and treatment services to a patient over a network. Telemedicine solutions that include peripherals, such as a stethoscope, otoscope and high quality zoom camera, bring patients face-to-face with an offsite physician who can quickly examine, diagnose and provide treatment options during an off-hours emergency.

The use of a telemedicine system within a skilled nursing facility (SNF) not only opens dialogue between healthcare professionals at different facilities, but also allows an offsite physician to more rapidly access and diagnose the patient and recommend treatment based on a first-hand evaluation, offering an even greater level of patient care. With these benefits in mind, telemedicine is becoming increasingly important for skilled nursing facilities facing a wave of new penalties stemming from changing rules governing patient readmissions.

Patient communicating with doctor via telemedicine

“Telemedicine doesn’t work!” That’s what I heard a few years ago from two angry friends who knew I worked in the field of telebehavioral health.

It turned out that the husband had had symptoms that led the ED staff at their local hospital to think he might be having a stroke. That hospital had a telestroke service, which was used to determine whether he had had an ischemic stroke and needed the clot-busting drug tPA to save his life.

tele-echocardiography in the operating room

In 2006, Banner Health made the decision to equip every one of their ICU beds with an eICU system that provides round-the-clock, “remote” care to critical care patients. Banner Telehealth’s eICU operations centers, located in Mesa, Ariz., Denver, Colo., Santa Monica, Calif., and Tel Aviv, Israel, has helped reduce patient mortality and shortened ICU stays.

In 2013, Banner took another step toward state-of-the-art intensive care, by implementing a tele-echocardiography system to relay patients’ echocardiographic images to the eICU in real time. This was achieved by training respiratory therapists to obtain the images and project them in real time to the tele-ICU physician via the tele-ICU Camera.


Share this