The Arizona Telemedicine Programme (ATP), at the University of Arizona and the University of California-Davis Telehealth Programme are the first two programmes ever to complete the certification process and were recognized during the ATA's annual meeting. Telemedicine allows the diagnosis and treatment of patients using medical information and images transmitted electronically over long distances.
The ATP Training Programme provides information, instruction and ongoing training in all aspects of running a telemedicine programme, including clinical applications, telecommunications infrastructure development and operations, distance education, evaluation and business and administration.
"Interest in telemedicine is mushrooming worldwide and Arizona is a leader in the field. Accreditation by the ATA is important recognition of the high quality of the ATP's training programmes. Their recognition and co-branding of our training programmes will help us market our training programmes throughout the United States and internationally", stated Dr. Ronald S. Weinstein, ATP founding director.
The association established its accreditation programme to ensure that telemedicine, telehealth and e-health training programmes - in the United States and other countries - meet high standards of quality in terms of content, methods and resources, and also to provide formal recognition of training programmes that meet such standards.
"The Arizona Telemedicine Programme's Training Programme helps to improve health care in Arizona's rural and urban communities by preparing health care professionals to establish and operate telemedicine programmes. Its training programmes also bring health care workers up-to-date on the latest advances in telehealth and e-health, including the uses of electronic medical records for telemedicine applications", Dr. Weinstein stated.
Currently, the ATP offers monthly one- and two-day training courses in both Tucson and Phoenix. Trainers for the courses are located in either of the ATP's videoconferencing facilities - at the University of Arizona (UA)'s Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson or at the ATP's Institute for Advanced Telemedicine and Telehealth at the UA College of Medicine - Phoenix in partnership with Arizona State University.
The two campuses are linked by videoconferencing so that training sessions can be given simultaneously on both campuses. To date, 650 health care workers from more than 60 independent health care organisations have attended these training programmes.
"We anticipate that as we expand our ATP training for physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health care workers into additional areas such as electronic health records, our training programmes will grow dramatically over the next decade. Arizona is well-positioned to be a leader in the education of physicians about electronic health records and their implementation in doctors' offices", Dr. Weinstein added.
The ATP has received seven national awards for innovations in distance education and training including Computerworld's 2008 top award for innovation in the education and academia category. In recent years, word-of-mouth advertising has been attracting more trainees from other states, as well as a growing number of international participants.
"The ATP brand has a high profile in the telemedicine world", stated Dr. Weinstein. "We will begin to market our training programmes nationally and internationally this year. We also plan to add educational programmes on electronic health records in the near future. ATP is in the process of producing its training programmes in Spanish and also plans to produce them in other languages, including Navajo. The training sessions are being digitally recorded so that telemedicine training can be offered over the Internet."
Dr. Weinstein presented a beta version DVD of telemedicine training sessions recorded in Spanish at the ATA annual meeting. This was received enthusiastically by Spanish-speaking physicians attending the meeting.