Like many college graduates, Phyllis Webster finished her degree in Cultural and Biological Anthropology at the University of Arizona, wondering what she should do next with her life. The answer came when, in 1996, she joined the Arizona Telemedicine Program, even though, at that time, she knew nothing about telemedicine or technology. It was the medical field and the prospect of helping people that held her interest.
Within six months of service at ATP, she became a telemedicine case coordinator underneath the direction of ATP Medical Director, Doctor Ana Maria Lopez, and to date, has facilitated more than 8000 multispecialty teleconsultations for eight different charter sites across Arizona. After eighteen years of service across fifty-one subspecialty areas, she has worked with 165 consultants, many of which were employed by the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
During this time in her life, Webster remembers two distinct cases that are definitive of how varied and wide-ranging these applications can be, benefiting more patients on a larger scale. In the first case, there was an urgent call from a referring neonatologist who needed an echocardiology examination for a small child in duress. She was able to quickly secure an evaluation with a pediatric cardiologist who noticed the baby’s complex cardiac abnormalities and set up a transfer. This technology allowed everyone to work together in real time, following the baby’s condition and progress from the first meeting to the admission and treatment at the University of Arizona Medical Center.
In the second case, Webster remembered the story of a rural woman who suffered from a severe skin condition that prevented her from being seen in public or having a normal life. Using high resolution digital imaging technology and video teledermatology consultations and treatments, the patient’s condition dramatically improved within three or four months. Telemedicine technology had changed and enriched this woman’s quality of life!
Webster goes on to say that helping patients has been the best part of telemedicine, although it is easy to wrapped up in the technology because it is such an amazing tool, allowing medical personnel to better communicate and care for their patients. When she first began her career in 1996, very few knew about telemedicine or video conferencing. Eight thousand cases later, she is still amazed at the results seen every day and feels very fortunate to be a part of such an experience.