The Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP) at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center recently was recognized as the premier telemedicine program in the nation and beyond.
At its annual meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the American Telemedicine Association awarded the Tucson-based program its prestigious President's Award, regarded as the top international award in the field of telemedicine.
Dr. Ronald S. Weinstein, ATP director and a pioneer in the development of telemedicine technology, accepted the award on behalf of the program. Weinstein also was elected vice president of the American Telemedicine Association during the annual meeting.
A panel of distinguished experts in the field of telemedicine unanimously selected the Arizona Telemedicine Program from an extensive list of programs throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. Selection for the award is based on delivery of clinical services, breadth of service and academic efforts.
Telemedicine makes it possible to deliver specialized medical services to distant sites using modern telecommunications technology, including high-resolution video imaging, digital photography, computer workstations and other technology.
The Arizona Telemedicine Program "is bringing a broad range of medical subspecialty expertise to many rural communities previously served almost exclusively by primary care physicians," Weinstein says. ATP now has 21 sites throughout the state and conducts over 6,000 teleconsultations a year. Culminating a two-year effort, the program recently activated its 22nd site at Hopi Health Care Center in Northern Arizona.
In 1996 the Arizona Legislature appropriated $1.2 million to establish the Arizona Telemedicine Program. The Legislature demonstrated its continued support of this much-needed program by increasing its budget this year, Weinstein says.
ATP's 93 College of Medicine telephysicians represent 53 medical subspecialties. ATP also offers continuing medical education to 34 Arizona communities, delivering more than 3,000 hours of CME credit to date.
In addition to its clinical programs, the Arizona Telemedicine Program is conducting research in areas of technology assessment and cost-benefit analyses of telemedicine. The program also operates a telemedicine training center that offers telemedicine-related instruction to health care professionals throughout the state. "We're one of the few programs that has created a truly University-based program with strong assessment and research components, strong training programs, as well as strong service programs," Weinstein explains. "Our assessment center has developed, adapted and tested the technology that is being used at a number of Arizona rural hospitals."
In addition, the Arizona Telemedicine Program, in partnership with the Arizona Department of Corrections, operates a multi-site inmate services telemedicine network. ATP also co-sponsors an annual international meeting on the use of telemedicine in prison systems and correctional facilities.