Provider Attitudes toward STARPAHC: A Telemedicine Project on the Papago Reservation

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Abstract

Space Technology Applied to Rural Papago Advanced Health Care (STARPAHC), is a large-scale telemedicine project, sponsored jointly by the Indian Health Service (IHS), NASA, and the Papago tribe, and in operation on the Papago Indian Reservation outside Tucson Arizona, for the past two years. STARPAHC uses a mobile health unit (MHU), staffed by non-M.D. providers and linked by two-way television, radio, and remote telemetry to an IHS hospital up to 100 miles away, to make medical care available in remote areas of the reservation. Over a two-year-period beginning in January, 1975, 47 individual providers, including 21 physicians, were interviewed, at five intervals, to determine their receptivity to and acceptance of telemedicine; because of staff turnover, not all providers were interviewed at each different interval. Data suggests that television equipment was considered costly and in some cases inconvenient to M.D. providers; it was not considered always essential for providers to be able to diagnose and treat patients. The major problems providers cited were the unreliability of equipment and the time required for television consultations. The major benefit cited was improved access to health care for a population not previously receiving such care near their homes. Non-M.D. providers considered the link they were provided to physicians via television and voice communications from remote areas to be a major benefit.

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