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.
COVID-19 and stay at home orders forced many practices, hospitals, urgent care, and clinics to turn their operations upside down overnight. Patients were canceling appointments left and right due to "the fear of the waiting room". Many primary care providers were seeing upwards of 80% cancellations.
Last month, Psych Associates (Springfield, MO), where I practice, went to an “online office,” which meant every provider in our practice set up a virtual therapy room in their home. We’re all trained up on Telehealth, so ready, here we go!
I’m a newbie to the world of virtual therapy so I really didn’t know what to expect, but I’m brave in my work, so I trusted that everything would work out fine.
The threat of coming in contact with the deadly coronavirus Covid-19 was real, and of course we all wanted to stay well, and keep our clients well, so we acted quickly. Luckily, it was a smooth transition.
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.
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.
Southwest Telehealth Resource Center • University of Arizona Health Sciences • P.O. Box 245105 • Tucson, AZ 85724-5105
This website was made possible by grant number U1U42527 from the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, Health Resources and Services Administration, DHHS