Three additional hospitals in rural Arizona activate link to Telemedicine for Teletrauma system

Tucson 12 September 2007Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) and the University Medical Center (UMC) in Tucson have announced that three additional rural Arizona hospitals now have real-time access to UMC teletrauma specialists through the Telemedicine for Teletrauma programme. The announcement comes in conjunction with the first anniversary of the Telemedicine for Teletrauma programme, which now includes links to five rural Arizona hospitals participating in the programme. The Telemedicine for Teletrauma & Critical Care programme has helped address the shortage of trauma specialists in rural Arizona in just a year's time.

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Sierra Vista Regional Health Center, Benson Hospital, and Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales join Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee and Southeast Arizona Medical Center (SAMC) in Douglas as the latest additions to the telemedicine for teletrauma network. Copper Queen Hospital went live in March. At SAMC, the programme's first participating hospital, teletrauma consultations have increased 60 percent in the past year.

"It is an incredible feat that, in just 12 months' time, the teletrauma programme has connected the expertise of the University Medical Center to five rural Arizona hospitals", BCBSAZ President and CEO Richard L. Boals stated. "We are proud to help expand the reach of this cutting-edge technology and look forward to seeing it through to other communities."

The programme began in 2006 when it linked trauma specialists at UMC to the medical staff of SAMC, 120 miles away. Through a closed circuit system of videoconferencing and remote monitoring equipment, the specialists help guide care in rural hospitals for injured patients, reducing the amount of time it takes for a patient to receive specialist trauma treatment and, thus, helping to save lives.

"Of the 21 patients treated in the first 13 months of this programme, I believe five could have died without the access that teletrauma provides", Rifat Latifi, MD, FACS, Associate Director of the Arizona Telemedicine Programme, stated.

With majority funding from BCBSAZ, the programme has been able to extend service to hospitals in Bisbee, Benson, Nogales and Sierra Vista. The University Medical Center hopes to expand the programme to other rural communities in the next year.

UMC, home to the region's only Level 1 trauma centre, reports that this programme is just the second teletrauma programme of its kind in the world. "The programme saves lives, increases efficiency, and brings an improved level of care to Arizonans in trauma situations", stated Gregory A. Pivirotto, UMC President and Chief Executive Officer. "This is the mission that health care professionals strive for."

The teletrauma programme is part of BCBSAZ's efforts to provide Arizonans with access to health care in rural areas. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is the largest Arizona-based health insurance company. The not-for-profit company was founded in 1939 and provides health insurance products, services or networks to more than 1,3 million individuals. With offices in Phoenix, Flagstaff, Tempe and Tucson, the company employs more than 1500 Arizonans.

The University Medical Center in Tucson is a non-profit, 355-bed teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Pharmacy and Nursing. This year UMC was included among Solucient's 100 Top Hospitals in the United States and also among US News and World Report's Best Hospitals in America. Since 2003, UMC has operated the sole Level 1 trauma centre in Southern Arizona, serving a population of 1,3 million people in Pima, Santa Cruz, Cochise, Graham, Greenlee and Pinal Counties as well as western New Mexico and northern Sonora, Mexico. More than 4600 trauma patients receive care each year in the hospital's trauma centre, making it the busiest trauma centre in the state of Arizona.

The Arizona Telemedicine Programme, a multi-disciplinary programme of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, provides telemedicine services, distance learning, informatics training and telemedicine technology assessment capabilities to communities throughout Arizona. The programme has succeeded in creating partnerships among a wide variety of not-for-profit and profit health care organisations, and has created new interagency relationships within the state government. Functioning as a "virtual corporation", the Arizona Telemedicine Programme is creating new paradigms for health care delivery over the information superhighway. More news about the Arizona Telemedicine Programme is available in the VMW September 2006 article Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and University Medical Center team up to enhance trauma care in rural Arizona.


Leslie Versweyveld

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