Grand Rounds on a Grand Scale

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

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.

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.

Teams in Training

Project leaders say the goal is to create much-needed discussion and collaboration among professionals in multiple health care disciplines so that they can deliver the best care to patients.

"It's the effort to be inclusive," Weinstein says. "Medicine is quite closed and quite limited, but we're counting on telecommunications to bridge some of those communication gaps."

He's not the only one preaching this message. The prestigious National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine (IOM) has advocated for more interprofessional training and has encouraged educators to develop more interdisciplinary curricula and incorporate interprofessional team training into their programs.

In a 2003 report, the IOM stated that "although the academic environments of the various health professions generally are not interdisciplinary, practice environments are increasingly so, posing a serious disconnect."

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