Arizona Telemedicine May 2014 - Page 15

Guided by a broad-based community advisory group, ¡Vida! has been proactively addressing the information needs of patients and their families across the state of Arizona. While ¡Vida! originally began with a focus on breast cancer survivorship, the series has evolved to include topics related to lifestyle medicine, wellness, and advocacy, with the overarching goal of engaging Arizona’s citizens in their own health. Recent ¡Vida! sessions have covered such varied topics as young women and cancer, medicinal plants of the Sonoran Desert, the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, and breathing techniques that lead to relaxation. “As patients and their families have repeatedly informed us, the cure to the stress and anxiety that their illness brings is knowledge and information,” Dr. Lopez says. The program offers monthly sessions developed for both patients and health-care professionals. The sessions are offered to a local audience at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center campus and University of Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson. Each program is first offered to physicians and other health-care professionals, so they can be prepared to respond to questions from patients who attend the ¡Vida! sessions. The sessions for professionals also offer continuing medical education credit. All of the Arizona Telemedicine Program’s 160 statewide sites are able to connect to ¡Vida! via the program’s telecommunications technology, which allows for fully interactive videoconferencing, or through UA Biomedical Communications, which facilitates real-time and delayed videostreaming. All sessions are permanently stored, so patients and professionals can watch as many times as they want, at their convenience. Both patients and health care professionals say they appreciate the ease of learning through ¡Vida!, as well as being able to interact by videoconferencing with the presenter. Patients say they feel better prepared to ask questions and learn more, and professionals say they feel better prepared to address patient concerns. Acknowledging the diversity of Arizona communities, the patient series is offered twice on the same day: one session in English and one in Spanish. “Over time, the groups began to connect, either lingering after one session or coming in early for the other,” Dr. Lopez says. “The groups could not always communicate effectively through language, but the participants found music to be the language that could bridge them. They began to play music in between the sessions and move and dance, in Tucson, in Nogales, in Payson, and in all participating sites across Arizona. “I think of music as the universal language,” Dr. Lopez says. “Our participants now come together monthly to learn together and to celebrate health through movement!” Ms. McHugh, who lives in Tucson, started attending ¡Vida! meetings regularly in 2013, on the recommendation of a social worker who leads a support group that she attends. In addition to being a breast cancer survivor, she underwent surgery in May 2013 for what turned out to be a benign ovarian tumor – still, a frightening experience. Last year, Ms. McHugh was asked to serve on the ¡Vida! planning committee. “I was delighted to have a chance to ‘pay it forward’ to all the people who have saved my life,” she says. Ms McHugh leads the dance breaks. Ms. McHugh has gained more than information from ¡Vida!. She and Isela Macias, another participant, were volunteering together on ¡Vida! when they learned they are practically neighbors. Now they are close friends. “It is amazing,” Ms. McHugh says, “that the blessings that come from ¡Vida! are so rich.” 11