Get Blog Updates

Connect With Us

facebook Twitter linkedin RSS

Write for the ATP Blog

Guest Author


Distance Learning Keeps Rural Physicians on ‘Cutting Edge’

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.

Staff members of ATP member institutions are eligible to receive continuing education credit for eligible CME and/or CE events at no additional cost as a benefit of their institution’s membership with the ATP.

Psychiatrist Sara Gibson, MD, a community-based rural psychiatrist based in Flagstaff, has been practicing psychiatry since 1988, and was the first in Arizona to practice telepsychiatry, beginning in 1996.

“It’s really fun to be on the cutting edge of psychiatry via telemedicine grand rounds,” Gibson said. “You don’t have to go anywhere. You can attend through your computer. My IT people hook me out of my clinical sessions and hook me into the UA psychiatry grand rounds. It’s a golden opportunity that those of us working in rural areas could not otherwise be part of.”

She recalled a talk given by a UA psychiatrist about depression, and its potential link to inflammation. “That’s the kind of really exciting information that’s coming out of the UA. It’s wonderful to just be a student and learn,” she said.

Gibson is associate medical director of the Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Authority (which will become Health Choice Integrated Care on Oct. 1). She also is NARBHA’s medical director for telemedicine, and medical director for Little Colorado Behavioral Health Centers in rural Apache County.

ATP grand rounds is a nearly monthly educational series in which content is guided and delivered by ATP sites. “Chart rounds” give clinicians the opportunity to ask questions of experts, in a format that protects patient confidentiality. This approach helps improve the care of the patient and the community.   

Examples of distance learning include self-care classes for patients with diabetes in rural communities and grand rounds providing continuing education for doctors, nurses and other health professionals across the state.

The ATP distance learning program provides critical information for rural physicians – things like an update on HIV treatment, or the latest information on scorpion stings and antivenom,” said Janet Major, ATP associate director for distance learning outreach. “I think our biggest asset is our ability to provide education on demand. Tracy Skinner, our distance education and training coordinator, does an annual site survey to find out what topics people want to know more about. And we work with our sites on a regular basis, so we are promoting and producing a great learning experience - at a distance.”

About the Author

Jane Erikson's picture

Jane Erikson joined the staff of the Arizona Telemedicine Program in April 2013. She was already familiar with the program, as she previously wrote about the program during her nearly 20 years of covering health care for the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. Jane has lived in Arizona most of her life and is a graduate of the University of Arizona.

All site content © 1996 - 2018 Arizona Telemedine Program. The University of Arizona is an EEO/AA - M/W/D/V