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UAMS opens digital health training center in Fayetteville

by Janelle Jessen | December 1, 2021 at 7:45 a.m.
A vehicle drives Friday, May 22, 2020, past the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Northwest entrance to honor healthcare workers during the Horns for Heroes event at the medical center campus in Fayetteville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the South Central Telehealth Resource Center opened a digital health training center at the university's Northwest Arkansas campus Tuesday.

The center is one of four satellite sites in Arkansas and one in Tennessee that will train health care professionals, students and patients how to integrate technology into educational and health care settings.

Since much of the state is rural and some people must drive up to three hours to see a specialist, telehealth has been a big help to Arkansas, said Hari Eswarin, director of the resource center, housed at UAMS institute in Little Rock. The university started a telehealth program in 2003 to treat high-risk pregnancies, he said.

The demand for telehealth services increased during the covid-19 pandemic and the resource center heard more requests for assistance from the three states it covers -- Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi, Eswarin said.

The resource center and the satellite sites are funded by a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a one-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, according to a press release. The two grants total $1.8 million and were awarded to expand and enhance digital health services nationwide and in rural communities, it states.

The resource center in Little Rock has been open for some time, while the center in Tennessee recently had a soft launch, said Terri Imus, clinical director of telemedicine at UAMS Institute of Digital Health and Innovations. The Arkansas Rural Health Partnership Telehealth Training Center in Lake Village will be the next to open in January, she said.

The centers will make technical assistance available, train health care professionals, help patients feel more comfortable with telehealth visits, and increase the workforce in information technology and health care by introducing high school and medical students to the fields, Eswarin said.

The centers will also help health care providers who are starting a telemedicine program with topics such as the technical aspects of patient care, telehealth etiquette, privacy issues and reimbursement policies, he said.

Imus demonstrated some of the devices used in telemedicine during the open house celebrating the launch of the digital health training center in Fayetteville.

Patients often go to their local doctor to be connected with a telemedicine appointment with a specialist, or a home health nurse may visit them, she said. The local health care providers use technology to present the patient to the specialist, she said.

For example, a Bluetooth-equipped stethoscope allows a specialist working at a distance to hear the same heartbeat and lung sounds in real time as the nurse using the device and an otoscope -- a device for examining the ear -- allows a specialist to see a high-resolution video of the ear canal. Remote devices such as Bluetooth electrocardiogram machines and blood pressure cuffs allow patients to monitor their health from home and share the results virtually with their doctor, she said.

Training centers have travel kits of devices they can send to schools to allow students to learn how to use them, Imus said.

Centers can also provide training on any device, Imus said. If a patient or health care provider finds technology they like, the center will help them learn how to use it, she said.

Being able to connect patients with specialists remotely saves patients time, gets them appointments to see a doctor more quickly and hopefully helps patients better control chronic illnesses, she said.

"It just brings the patient into that provider or that specialist's office without them ever leaving their community," Imus said.

Satellite digital health training centers


• UAMS Northwest Regional Campus – Fayetteville

• UAMS Regional Campus – Helena-West Helena

• University of Tennessee Health Science Center – Memphis, Tenn.

• Arkansas Rural Health Partnership – Lake Village

• Jefferson Regional Medical Center School of Nursing – Pine Bluff


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