TUCSON, Ariz. – The Arizona Telemedicine Program at the University of Arizona Health Sciences has been awarded $828,000 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide critical assistance to communities as they combat COVID-19. The funding, awarded through the department’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), will be directed to the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center (SWTRC), a subsidiary of ATP.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a `sea change’ in the telemedicine industry in just the past 60 days,” said Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, founding director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program and principal investigator on the HRSA grant. “Telemedicine clinic visits at many locations have soared, literally 2,000%. This is not a surge – it’s a tsunami! Practitioners either will adapt to the new norm or be left behind,” he predicted.
The Southwest Telemedicine Resource Center initially was funded by HRSA more than 10 years ago to advance the effective use of telemedicine services throughout the Southwest. The center assists start-up telehealth programs and serves as a resource for existing programs to address changes in technology and other issues affecting telehealth in the region. The Center is led by Co-Directors Dr. Weinstein and Elizabeth A. Krupinski, PhD, and is “powered” by the ATP staff who have more than 25 years of expertise in telehealth, Dr. Weinstein said.
As the world combats COVID-19, it increasingly has become evident that telehealth is an extremely effective and efficient tool to provide health care, especially for those most vulnerable or in underserved communities.
“This additional funding,” Dr. Krupinski said, “will help us expand our ability to provide technical assistance to communities in this time of need. In particular, we will be able to expand our training programs and related efforts to increase awareness and safe use of telehealth throughout the Southwest. We will focus on expanding our reach to patients who truly are experiencing the benefits of telehealth, but also have many questions about how it works, what to expect and what to ask during telehealth visits.”
The two UA Health Sciences programs will provide technical assistance to HRSA grantees and others interested in establishing or expanding telehealth programs in response to COVID-19, including the OAT Telehealth Network, Community Health Centers and Federal Office of Rural Health Policy grantees. Technical assistance activities will address the technical, operational and evaluation challenges in establishing and sustaining telehealth programs.
In addition to the SWTRC, 13 Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs) have been established in the United States, providing technical assistance to rural and underserved communities and other key stakeholders as they rapidly increase their use of telehealth services or deploy new services to address the COVID19 virus.
The National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers (NCTRC) is a collaborative of 12 regional and two national TRCs committed to implementing telehealth programs for rural and underserved communities.
TRCs provide timely and accurate information on telehealth throughout the nation and are expertly staffed and lead the advancement and accessibility of telehealth with a focus on rural communities, Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics. As a consortium, the NCTRC is dedicated to helping organizations and practices overcome barriers, advance telehealth education and provide resources.
The UArizona Health Sciences COVID-19 Resources webpage can be found here.
For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.
About the Arizona Telemedicine Program
Established in 1996 by the Arizona State Legislature, the Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP) – based at the University of Arizona Health Sciences – is funded by state and federal grants and membership fees to promote telemedicine services, training and facility development throughout the region. The ATP and its subsidiaries, the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center (SWTRC) and the T-Health Institute at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix, offer a variety of resources and services to help organizations launch their telemedicine programs, add additional services and capacity and maintain operations. For more information: telemedicine.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn).
About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).