Telehealth Connects Rural EMS Providers with Physicians

Feb. 10, 2021
Rico Rio emergency medical technicians approach an accident scene.

The University of Arizona Health Sciences and Banner – University Medical Center Tucson recently launched a pilot project using advanced telehealth technology to enhance rural health care. The goal is to improve patient outcomes by connecting rural emergency medical services (EMS) responders to Tucson emergency medicine physicians for potentially lifesaving consultations.

The Arizona Rural EMS Advanced Telemedicine Demonstration Initiative (AzREADI) is funded by a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant awarded to the UArizona Center for Rural Health at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

Through AzREADI, rural EMS responders have 24/7 access to real-time consultations with board-certified EMS physicians, thanks to improvements in wireless broadband capabilities.

“EMS vehicles are being equipped with broadband cellular connection and high-speed internet access to the Banner – University Medical Center Tucson Emergency Department, making it much easier for an emergency department physician to immediately access the information, make a diagnosis, recommend a transfer or prepare the medical equipment necessary to treat the patient upon arrival,” said Joshua Gaither, MD, associate professor and EMS Fellowship director in the College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Emergency Medicine.

The Rio Rico Fire and Medical District, serving the rural area just north of the Arizona-Mexico border, and the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District, serving rural communities between Tucson and Sierra Vista, are the two partner EMS agencies participating in the AZ READI pilot program.