Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Telehealth Growing in Arkansas

The South Central Telehealth Resource Center in Arkansas at now offers free online telehealth training and resources for users. The site with 350 registered visitors is designed to be a social network of telehealth users while providing formal learning opportunities as well as informal peer-to-peer learning and videos on telehealth.

The “Antenatal Neonatal Guidelines Education & Learning System” (ANGELS) was started in 2003 by Dr. Curtis Lowery in partnership with Medicaid and the Arkansas Medical Society. The mission was to enable adequate obstetrical healthcare to all women in the state.

ANGELS has been growing steadily over the years and now provides 2000 consults statewide over interactive video and over 20,000 call a month are received by the 27/7 Call Center. The ANGELS program is the only telehealth program delivering care on a statewide basis.

Today, ANGELS’ clinics are being implemented across the state. The first clinic, Pine Bluff AHEC will be opening in November. Openings will also be occurring in the same time period at the North Arkansas Medical Center (Harrison) and Sparks Womens Center at Fort Smith.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in their Center for Distance Health is working to develop strong collaborations with international educational institutions. Through a sizeable Polycom grant, the Center was able to donate two state-of-the-art video units to Tohoku University Hospital and to Kensennuma City Hospital along the coastal area of Japan.

Today, the physicians at the Tohoku University Hospital are participating in a comprehensive telemedicine center similar to the Center at UAMS to reach as many satellite hospitals as possible and have the capacity to work with specialists from other departments such as dermatology and ophthalmology.

According to Curtis L. Lowery Jr., MD, Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UAMS, “Video conferencing allows UAMS to develop strong collaborations with international educational institutions. The goal is to reach the point where we can share advancements in education, research, and clinical services among all of our peers in every discipline.”

In the summer of 2010, UAMS received a $102 million federal grant to be managed by the UAMS Center for Distance Health. The resulting network named Arkansas e-Link is helping to meet broadband needs in unserved, underserved, and economically distressed areas in the state.

As a result of the award, the UAMS Center for Distance Health is expanding and integrating the capabilities of two major already existing community networks that includes the Arkansas Telehealth Network as overseen by Arkansas Telehealth Oversight and Management (ATOM) and the Arkansas Research and Education Optical Network (ARE-ON).

The network presently serves 450 statewide locations and is increasing bandwidth along with providing much needed new equipment to provide services. Now, patients, providers, and researchers have accessibility to do real-time clinical consultations with remote specialists, able to exchange EMR data, and collaboratively able to provide virtual research and distance education.

Eventually, the project will establish or upgrade broadband connections and equipment at more than 470 healthcare and education sites across the state The 36 month grant runs from August 2010 through July 31, 2013. Project deployment will occur in two phases. Phase I will procure and deploy interactive video equipment and public computers with internet access to sites with existing broadband and provide centralized network management.

Phase II will coordinate broadband installations and procure and deploy interactive video equipment to the remaining sites. At the end of the grant, the intent is to transition to sustainability for all sites.

Since the project began, milestones have been reached:

  • The e-link team was hired
  • The database was developed
  • Network design was accomplished
  • Environmental assessment was achieved
  • Community anchor institutions were established
  • Vendor bids awarded
  • Web site was designed
 The Department of Information Services (DIS) is working with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to provide additional bandwidth at county offices. ADH recently received a grant though ATOM to provide the bandwidth. With the current network rates, DIS was able to provide ADH with 1.5 Mb of additional bandwidth at each office and up to 10Bb at some offices.

DIS wants the agencies, boards, and commissions to submit IT plans for fiscal years 2014 to 2015. The enterprise architecture team is in the process of analyzing all IT plans and is looking for shared service and other technology opportunities. Some of the areas that the team is particularly focusing on developing more mobility opportunity and producing cloud solutions.