Technology

COVID-19: Opportunities in a Time of Crisis?

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There is no doubt that COVID-19 has disrupted our healthcare systems and the general population worldwide in a host of ways no one could have imagined just 6 months ago. On a regular basis, we hear on the news stories about how many cases there are, how many deaths, where to get tested, hot spots, how healthcare disparities contribute to certain populations being more vulnerable than others, and how we need to social distance, wash our hands and wear masks.

Telemedicine Helps Hard-hit Navajo Nation Hospital Deal with the Pandemic

Chinle Service Unit ED using telemedicine tools for poorly visible negative pressure rooms.  Photos courtesy of Stephen Neal
In May, the Navajo Nation surpassed New York and New Jersey for the highest per-capita infection rate of COVID-19 in the US. In an area where 30 to 40 percent of residents don’t have running water and families live together in multigenerational homes, containing the spread has been difficult. In addition, residents can’t stay at home and see a healthcare provider using telemedicine, as so many of us have been able to do during the Public Health Emergency, because there’s little to no cell service or internet availability. So anyone needing healthcare or showing symptoms of COVID-19 has to travel to one of the few healthcare facilities.

Telemedicine: A Whole other Wor(l)d

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Starting off as a fellow with the Arizona Telemedicine Program this past June, it got me more and more interested in the specific jargon of telemedicine. At first I often used terms like “telehealth” and “telemedicine” interchangeably but as I got more heavily involved in the literature I realized they are two distinct terms. Telehealth is a more general term encompassing a larger umbrella of services, like hospital administration and training via technology; while telemedicine specifically refers to clinical services provided at a distance.

Why isn’t Telemedicine Mainstream

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My introduction to telemedicine was in 8th grade, while I was taking a medical science course with Dr. Weinstein, to prove that the medical school curriculum could be integrated earlier into the American school system. I remember thinking, “Wow, this is one of the coolest applications of technology, why aren’t more people using it?” It wasn’t until my sophomore year at the UofA I reconnected with Dr. Weinstein and started to explore the answer to that question I asked many years ago. As I continued to work with Dr. Weinstein I began to realize the answer to that question was more nuanced than my 8th grade self would have thought. By analyzing the Arizona Telemedicine Council (ATC), which is a non-statutory advisory council to the Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP), for a paper on the relationship between telemedicine and governance it shed light on the legal, financial, and practical barriers of telemedicine.

Arizona Telemedicine Program Rapidly Responds to Coronavirus Pandemic

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Online Course: “Developing Telemedicine Services” Open Enrollment The national award-winning Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP), headquartered at the University of Arizona Health Sciences in Tucson, Arizona, will conduct a major, online training program regarding the COVID-19 pandemic for health-care providers, administrators, and educators, titled: “Developing Telemedicine Services,” on Monday, March 23, 2020. “Telemedicine is a key capability for healthcare providers and the community they serve to slow the spread of the COVID-19,” notes Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, a pioneer in telemedicine and founding director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program. The ATP has been producing in-person telemedicine and telehealth training programs for the past 20 years. Thousands of individuals, from hundreds of healthcare organizations, have attended these programs and given them high marks. “Now, in response to the COVID-19 pardemic, we are taking the course online for the first time.” He added, “Obviously, this will open the session to a far larger audience, filling an urgent need at this time.”

Challenges to Expect In Telemedicine App Development

Image depicting mobile app technologies

The healthcare industry seems to be booming by leaps and bounds – in good part due to Telemedicine app development. More and more organizations are seeking different ways, such as e-healthcare, to reduce costs and improve patient care. Being a subset of telehealth, telemedicine uses a broad range of modern technologies and specializes in providing medical services from a distance with the help of software and communication tools.

Telehealth – It’s Not About the Technology - But Let’s talk About it Anyway!

Image of the banner for TelehealthTechnology.org

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times – telehealth is not about the technology it’s about the people. However – the technology is always there and sometimes it’s worth taking a look at what people are using and what future technologies they might be interested in. Luckily the National Telehealth Technology Assessment Center (TTAC; http://www.telehealthtechnology.org/), a member of the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers, does just that! They recently came out with their 2018 survey results and provided a comparison with 2014 survey results to assess trends and changes. The survey was sent to all 50 states and I don’t want to brag but will anyway – Arizona had the most respondents and Colorado and New Mexico were also in the top 10!

SEARCH 2018 – Proving the Power of Telehealth Research

Members of the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers attend and participated at the SEARCH2018

The 2018 SEARCH (Society for Education and the Advancement of Research in Connected Health) meeting was the first held by this group of dedicated telehealth researchers since the Society was formed earlier this year. The meeting was jointly organized and hosted by SEARCH, the West Health Institute and the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers (NCTRC). It was held at the West Health facilities in San Diego, CA October 24th and 25th. About 150 people attended from a wide variety of backgrounds and there were 47 presenters, all with a passion for proving (or disproving) the benefits of connected health through the conduct of rigorous investigations.

4th Annual Service Provider Summit – If You Missed It You Missed a Lot!

Image of Audience at SPS 2018

The 4th Annual Telemedicine & Telehealth Service Provider Summit (SPS https://ttspsworld.com/), sponsored by the Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP) and Southwest Telehealth Resource Center (SWTRC), was held October 8-9 in Glendale, AZ, and attracted an all-time high of nearly 400 attendees! SPS continues to be unique in its intent to bring together telemedicine service providers and users in a collaborative and interactive venue that provides the opportunity to learn from each other. SPS, as in past years, was organized and hosted by Drs. Dale Alverson, Elizabeth Krupinski, and Ronald Weinstein. The ATP team contributed innumerable hours (especially Nancy Rowe and Kris Erps), support, and enthusiasm to put the meeting on and deserves many kudos and thanks (Cassandra Coray, Ellen Dudzik, Kris Erps, Mike Holcomb, Angel Holtrust, Bob Kerr, Janet Major, Chris Martin, Karen Miller, Nancy Rowe, Tracy Skinner)!