Arizona Telemedicine May 2014 - Page 23

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, inspired a nationwide effort to improve emergency care for burn patients. In Arizona, telemedicine turned that important concept into reality. O n the morning of September 11, 2001, the Arizona Burn Center in Phoenix was one of hundreds of hospitals scrambling to get ready for the thousands of people who would be pulled from the burning wreckage of the World Trade Center, in New York. That was the hope. The reality, of course, is that almost none of the people who were at their desks or enjoying breakfast at “Windows on the World” restaurant ever had a chance of being saved. But out of that awful day came the nation’s realization that terrorist attacks and other tragedies were no longer confined to the rest of the world. They could happen right here, to us. middle of the state,” Dr. Caruso says. “We’ve got a 1,500 – mile radius from where we can take patients – including California and New Mexico. Not all burn patients have to be transported to our center, but either way, we can see what’s going on even before the helicopter arrives. We can help with supportive care, and get treatment started earlier.” Telemedicine helps determine which patients need to be transported to the Burn Center. “A lot of patients still come to us who don’t need to come here,” Dr. Caruso says. “I can talk to the other doctor and in some cases we can determine that the patient can be treated locally, instead of bringing the patient to us by helicopter, which costs $10,000 to $20,000.” And from that came a call to action – from federal and state governments, the American Burn Association and others – to build a system that “In some cases the could handle thousands patient can be treated of burn patients whenever locally, instead of the need occurred. bringing the patient to us Dr. Caruso and the Burn Center’s other surgeons have telemedicine on their home computers – desktop and laptop – so emergency physicians at outlying hospitals can count on 24/7 access to a burn specialist. In 2002, the Arizona by helicopter, which costs Department of Health Services asked surgeon $10,000 to $20,000.” Daniel M. Caruso, MD, Daniel M. Caruso, MD, Flagstaff Medical Center then director of the Arizona Burn Center consults with the Arizona Arizona Burn Center at Burn Center about once a Maricopa Medical Center month, on average. in downtown Phoenix, to come up with a plan to expand the state’s capacity “Having telemedicine available to us has just for burn patients. The Burn Center has 45 beds, revolutionized things,” says Kevin Conn, MD, one three-fourths of which are usually in use. of the Flagstaff hospital’s emergency physicians. The solution, Dr. Caruso and others recognized, “In a couple of minutes the burn specialists at was to connect his hospital to those in Tucson, Arizona Burn Center can see our patient and Flagstaff, Yuma, and rural communities recognize the severity of their injuries. Now the through the Arizona Telemedicine Program. The Burn Center surgeon can say, ‘Yeah, that guy “spoke” hospitals were equipped with portable definitely needs to come down. Get him on a telemedicine units and, as a result, there are now helicopter.’ Or the surgeon can say, ‘I need to 110 more burn beds statewide. see this patient in person, but if her pain is under control, she can wait to come down in a day or Dr. Caruso, now head of surgery at Maricopa two.’” Medical Center, explains how it works. “Let’s say St. Mary’s in Tucson gets 10 burn patients. The For Dr. Conn, who has been with Flagstaff Medical staff there can take ‘Doc on a Stick’ – a robotic Center for 12 years, “Burn telemedicine is a very device that transmits images of patients in outlying welc