Arkansas e-Link, a statewide broadband network, has begun operations in Craighead County, connecting health care and educational institutions for telemedicine and distance learning.
A demonstration of the training and equipment capabilities was held at St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro. With most of the e-Link technology already in place at sites in the county, services will begin once personnel at those locations complete training with the new equipment and systems.
Arkansas e-Link, led by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), is using high-speed data transmission lines to connect 413 community institutions for videoconferencing between medical professionals, patients and doctors and others along with the real-time exchange of patient data and readings. Twelve of the 413 are in Craighead County. When the rollout is completed, e-Link will have a presence in all 75 Arkansas counties.
The broadband will allow patients to consult in real time with medical specialists in other locations through interactive video so the patients can receive needed health care near their homes. Hometown medical providers will be able to collaborate with distant medical specialists to co-manage patient care so they don’t have to refer patients to distant hospitals or clinics. The higher education component of e-Link will facilitate resource sharing, collaboration and research opportunities at two-year and four-year colleges in Arkansas.
“By providing the equipment and bandwidth necessary to make it happen, Arkansas e-Link is connecting patients, physicians and other medical professionals in an expansion of telemedicine the size and scope of which is unprecedented,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D. “The project will benefit residents in their daily lives by providing connections to their local hospital, public library, two-year college, emergency services, community health clinic, mental health clinic and other institutions within the network.”
Arkansas e-Link was created from a $102 million grant awarded in August 2010 to UAMS and partner institutions through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program Comprehensive Community Infrastructure grant.
With another $26 million in matching funds from partner institutions statewide, the project is integrating isolated community institutions to expand the capabilities and geographic reach of broadband networks serving Arkansas. Craighead County is getting $916,890 of the total for the data transmission lines, interactive video units and medical equipment.
“St. Bernards Healthcare, by working with e-Link, has more opportunity to broaden services for direct healthcare as well as for education,” said Chris B. Barber, president and chief executive officer of St. Bernards Healthcare. “We are able to take advantage of real-time video consultation with distant medical specialists as we manage complex patients, and easily receive and participate in continuing education programs. Arkansas e-Link also allows us direct contact with other medical facilities or groups who provide for the safety of Arkansans especially during emergencies or disasters.”
In addition to St. Bernards Medical Center, other e-Link partners in Craighead County include St. Bernards Health System’s Home Health, the Arkansas Department of Health’s Craighead County Health Unit, Arkansas Aging Initiative’s Center on Aging Northeast, Area Health Education Center Northeast, Human Development Center in Jonesboro, Methodist Counseling Clinic in Jonesboro, Pathfinder Jonesboro Workshop, two Mid-South Health Systems locations in Jonesboro, Northeast Arkansas Baptist Memorial Healthcare and Surgical Hospital of Jonesboro.
Besides improving patient care at those institutions, e-Link will enable the community partners to reduce the cost of travel by staff for the continuing medical education credits to maintain professional certifications and standards. E-link also will give health care providers another way to offer outreach for effective community health education.
“We are very excited about this collaborative effort,” said Debbie Green, Arkansas e-Link project director. “We believe this is a great opportunity for the state.”
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 790 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com.