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Audiovisual technology enhances physician education

Audiovisual technology fosters better collaboration among doctors and a new way of teaching medicine.

By Mary K. Pratt
February 16, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Doctors have long had a tradition of holding "grand rounds" to discuss patient cases and educate aspiring physicians.

The centuries-old practice certainly has its merits, but medical leaders in Arizona want to improve, update and broaden it to include a larger list of health care practitioners, such as nurses and social workers, regardless of their locations.

So the Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP) drew on its extensive use of videoconferencing equipment to develop the Institute for Advanced Telemedicine and Telehealth, or the T-Health Institute, to facilitate a 21st-century way of teaching and collaborating across disciplines and professions.

At a Glance

T-Health Institute

Location: Phoenix

The Institute for Advanced Telemedicine and Telehealth, also known as the T-Health Institute, manages and promotes teleconferencing capabilities to improve education and collaboration among people studying and working in various health care disciplines. The institute has received $2.1 million in state and federal funding.

Project team: Project champions include state Sen. Robert L. Burns, chairman of the Arizona Telemedicine Council; Stuart Flynn, interim dean and associate dean of academic affairs at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in partnership with Arizona State University; U.S. Sen. John Kyle; Dr. Ronald S. Weinstein, director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program; and Gail P. Barker, director of the T-Health Institute.

Project return: Project leaders say the initiative will help students and working professionals learn how to foster more collaboration and communication among the many professionals who provide health care in the U.S. Such cooperation could result in more efficient, less expensive and safer medical care.

This novel approach and use of technology put the T-Health Institute at the top of the Education & Academia category of the Computerworld Honors Program.

"Its specific mission is to use technology to permit interdisciplinary team training," explains Dr. Ronald Weinstein, co-founder and director of the ATP. "Now we're opening it up to a far broader range of participants and patients."

This initiative goes well beyond simply connecting two doctors through videoconferencing. It also enables individuals to meet in person in the newly built T-Health amphitheater. They can also meet remotely through finely tuned audiovisual equipment that can seamlessly segregate both in-person and remote meeting participants into smaller discussion groups.

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