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Tucson Rep. awarded for work on telemedicine advances

By Ryan Gabrielson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 12, 2000
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The Arizona Telemedical Program recently awarded State Rep. Lou Ann Preble, R-Tucson, with the Director's Award for her contributions to the expansion of telemedicine technology across Arizona.

The ATP - with headquarters in the Arizona Health Sciences Center - is entering its third year and is ranked among the top ten telemedicine programs in the nation. Much of the credit for this accomplishment is being given to the Preble's work in securing funding from the state legislature.

"She has been responsible for the education and medical services network which the Legislature has expanded to include rural communities," said Dr. Ronald Weinstein, pathology department head.

Originally, the ATP was proposed to create a telemedical system for the state's correctional facilities. The technology was designed to eliminate the cost of guards and risk of flight from an inmate's hospital visit.

"They needed a legislator to do it, and I was in the right place at the right time," Preble said.

Since then, telemedicine has spread itself across the state. Sites for this technology have been established in Tucson, Phoenix, Douglas, Nogales, Ganado, Patagonia, Payson, Springerville, Yuma, Kingman and Whiteriver. The ATP conducts almost 150 telemedicine and teleradiology sessions a month.

"Preble is a major supporter and has been developing goals as the first chair (of the Legislative Committee on Telemedicine)," Weinstein said.

One of the main goals for the program is to increase the technology's ability to educate, Weinstein said.

"The education will be going to medical students and professionals in rural hospitals," he said.

Through telemedicine, a doctor can meet with a patient by means of "high-resolution video imaging, digital photography, computer workstations and other technology," stated George Humphrey, UA director of public affairs, in a press release.

This technology can reduce a patient's need to be taken to a better equipped facility.

"(Telemedicine) gives the patient immediate contact with a specialist," Preble said.

Now, Preble is working to establish telemedicine in satellite and nursing schools, allowing students to stay at educational facilities that are closer to their home while still being able to receive university instruction.

Preble said the main problem facing telemedicine is the cost of keeping the technology up to date. Interstate systems are possible in the future, but the ATP is trying to perfect the system within the state first.

"This has really worked for Arizona," said Preble. "It's all been quite an experience."

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